Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Plot: It's been a tough year for fifteen year old DJ; with her mother working two jobs, her father injured and her two older brothers away at college, it's up to DJ to take care of the family dairy farm. Summer should be a bit of break (DJ won't think about how she failed English); but it's lonely.

Then Brian shows up. Brian lives in the next town over; which means he is on the football team; the rival football team. He's also cute and popular. His coach is good friends with DJ's family, and DJ's family needs the help. Football is very important to DJ's family -- heck, the cows are named after football players. So since is what the coach wants, Brian helps out. DJ gives him a bit of a rough time, but who wouldn't? Brian clearly can't pull his weight.

When DJ overhears an angry Brian telling his friends she's a Dairy Queen -- no better than the cows -- DJ starts to reexamine her life, her family and her friends.

The Good: DJ is quiet (like most of her family), with only a few friends. It hasn't helped that for the past year she's been doing backbreaking work to make sure the family farm survives. It's affected school (failing classes, dropping out of sports). But being quiet isn't' the same as having nothing to say; and when DJ does speak (even if it's just to the reader) she can be quite sarcastic: If there was ever a TV show called People Who Are Crazy And Need To Have Their Heads Examined, I'd be the very first guest and I hadn't done anything all weekend unless you count sulking, but I guess my body needed the rest.

When DJ overhears an angry Brian making fun of her, she could get mad and get even. But -- and here is why DJ is a great character -- after the anger, the hurt, and the wee bit of revenge, she listens to what he said. And thinks, am I just a cow? Going along with my life, not really thinking about it, not making choices?

DJ decides to take action: I saw something I wanted to do and I decided to do it. The feeling of freedom this gave me -- I can't even describe it. It was my decision. I chose it. I am not a cow.

What she decides to do? Play football; like her brothers before her. Dairy Queen takes the reader thru the grueling training, the attitudes she gets from others, the tryouts. It's clear this isn't a walk in the park; but it's also clear that DJ is tough and willing to walk.

She's not so willing to talk, tho. Remember cute Brian? She helps him train, failing to ever mention that she hopes to try out for her school football team. I mentioned their schools are rivals, right?

This book could easily have fallen into the romance category; but it's more about DJ than about DJ and Brian. It's also about communications in a family; DJ's family has silence down to an art form, and it's hurting all the family members, not just DJ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I talked about this book a while ago, and the book was good enough - but I think that the cover implies a totally different tone. It gives it sort of a mapcap funny romp feel, and the book isn't like that.

I actually like the cover, just not with this book.