book review of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch

Magan: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

book review of Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert MurdochDairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (facebook | website)
Publication Date: May 22, 2006
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 275
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: girl playing on male football team, milk farm, sports and training
Format Read: Audiobook purchased from Audible.com

Narrated by: Natalie Moore

Summary: D.J. isn’t the smartest girl there ever was, but one thing she certainly knows is her way around her family’s farm. D.J. was a star basketball player until her family hit a few speed bumps and she was forced to quit the team to help out more. Her father’s friend, Jimmy Ott, recruits D.J. to train his lackluster quarterback, Brian, which leads to a surprising turn of events when D.J. decides to try out for her school’s football team.

Thanks to the fantastic Lori at Pure Imagination, Dairy Queen was on my radar. It’s been out in the wonderful world of published books for a few years (a 2006 release) so when I saw her audiobook review, I knew that a) I HAD to read the book, and b) I needed to use one of my audible credits to listen to it as an audiobook. I’m very new to the world of listening to books. In fact, this is only my second to finish. But before I begin chatting about the audio aspect of Dairy Queen, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of D.J.’s life.

Things you should know about D.J.:

  • Her family owns a milk farm. She single-handedly keeps it running and this has forced her to quit her high school basketball team and be pretty distanced from “normal” high school activities.
  • Her brothers are college athletes — athleticism runs in their genes. However, her family’s kind of at an impasse, feuding over something silly and mundane.
  • D.J. isn’t the smartest cookie; she failed her Sophomore English class because she couldn’t possibly keep up with the farm work and school.
  • D.J. attends Red Bend’s high school. Their arch-rival is Holly.

One day D.J. is approached by Jimmy Ott, the Holly football coach and her father’s best friend, about training Brian Nelson. Jimmy suggests that maybe Brian can do some conditioning and farm work so that he can get in better shape, build his character, and simultaneously lend a hand to a family who desperately needs the help. Brian and D.J. are practically complete opposites. He’s popular and well-known. D.J. has a bit of a reputation as a hick. Brian’s got the big headed attitude of an awesome athlete, but he’ll never become more than the backup quarterback if he doesn’t train more. D.J. has raw, natural talent, but the opportunity for her to participate in sports has been taken away from her.

There’s this fantastic dynamic between Brian and D.J. as they try to figure out how two rivals can work together. And you know, of course, there’s this amazing chemistry that flares up but both of them want to ignore. BUT Dairy Queen offers more than just a tense relationship. There’s so much happening with D.J.’s family; they don’t really speak or communicate well. Why is that? And why is D.J’s best friend, Amber, having such a difficult time with D.J. training Brian? Amber has always been a say-what’s-on-her-mind kind of girl, but the things she’s blabbing to D.J. are becoming hurtful.

So there you have it: a rocky friendship with a questionable best friend, a family that needs a little fixin’, and an awesome dose of two very unlikely characters spending tons of time together.

As for the audio, it was spot on. I loved the narrator, Natalie Moore. She really got into D.J.’s character and I think I probably laughed out loud more than I would have if I were speed reading through the pages. Moore captured my husband’s attention, too, as I asked to listen to Dairy Queen while we were driving to Florida. I had to pause the book and explain the characters, setting, and plot so he could follow along with me. (He was asking a million questions.) We both really enjoyed the story — not too girly for him and not too heavy on the football/farm setting for me.

One bonus? There are two more books following Dairy Queen. I didn’t realize there was more when I finished listening, but I’ve just added The Off Season and Front and Center to my audible shopping cart because I’m so anxious for more D.J. and Brian. (And the rest of the gang, too.)

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book cover for Hooked by Liz Fichera

Magan: Hooked by Liz Fichera

book cover for Hooked by Liz FicheraHooked by Liz Fichera ( web | tweet )
Publication Date
: January 31, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Gender and Racial Discrimination, Golf, Bullying
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley

Summary: When Fredricka (Fred) is recruited to play golf for the men’s varsity team at her high school, team member Seth is kicked off. Seth manipulates and bullies Fred throughout the season, often leaving his best friend and ex-teammate Ryan in quite a predicament… especially when he might just be falling for Fred.

Hooked seemed like the perfect book for me, a girl who has lovingly devoured Miranda Kenneally’s books [see: Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker] which interweave a nice balance of sports and sweet romance. Though I don’t know a thing about golf, I was ready to be swept away by Fichera.

Fred is Native American and very isolated from the rest of her classmates. She has only a few friends because not many are willing to get to know the handful of kids attending the public school from her reservation. When she’s approached by the golf coach, who eyed her all summer while she perfected her swing at the golf club during her dad’s shift as groundskeeper, she’s not unsuspecting of the drama that is sure to follow when Seth is kicked off the team. Fred is a loner, mostly keeping to herself because she has a lot of family secrets she’d rather everyone not know. (Her mom is a drunk, they don’t have much money, live in a shabby trailer house, and drive a van that’s sure to cruise its last mile soon.)

Teammate Ryan has his fair share of drama, too, aside from Seth’s less than acceptable mistreatment of Fred. His doctor mother and lawyer father are rarely home; he suspects his father may be having an affair. Seth and Gwenyth (the clingy girl who can’t really take a hint that she’s being used and isn’t ever going to be promoted to Girlfriend) help soothe Ryan’s pain by partying and drinking with him. While it seems Ryan really is a good guy at heart, he’s left to pick up the pieces when Seth decides to attack Fred, portraying him as a very weak and gullible character . (Did I mention Seth’s father was killed in an accident by a Native American? His anger is immeasurable and he will do anything to make Fred suffer.) For the record, it was much more difficult to see Fred bullied by a boy than it typically is to read about girl v. girl drama.

You might have deduced that there’s no lack of drama with all the bullying and family tension. For a girl who is down with the (book) drama, I would have been more engaged if Fred or Ryan ever took a stand. Both were passive characters that let life take over. Fred was incredibly timid and never once rallied for support with her teammates or confided in her coach (who I wholeheartedly feel would have kicked major booty if he knew what was happening). Resolutions were delayed time and time again and I distanced myself from emotionally connecting with the characters as a result of their pathetic choices.  Ultimately, I would have appreciated a bit more character growth.

With a book full of strong contrasts (white boy versus Native American girl / girl on a boy’s team / rich versus poor / popular versus being a nobody), a lot could have been said about how to overcome these differences. Fred didn’t learn to fight for herself. Ryan didn’t have to change much (and in the end, even Seth’s actions were glossed over). Don’t get me wrong, many elements of Hooked were strong. Reading about a Native American girl and her reservation was fascinating, and Fichera did a great job of exploring discrimination on multiple levels. Unfortunately, I wished for Fred and Ryan to have more backbone than they did, something that quite possibly could have been strengthened if they didn’t have quite so many obstacles to overcome.

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