Title: Dairy Queen
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Publisher: Listening Library (paperback Houghton Mifflin), 2006
Narrator: Natalie Moore
D.J. Schwenk has a lot to deal with. Not only is she the only daughter out of four kids, she is pretty much in charge of running the dairy farm her family owns, at least ever since her dad's hip got really bad. Her older brothers (both football stars when they were in high school) aren't talking to the rest of the family because of a fight they had with their dad, her younger brother doesn't talk, and her mother has two jobs that take up all of her time. Her dad is trying to learn how to cook (slow going). She got an F in English last year. And her friend Amber is starting to act really weird. And to top it all off? Brian Nelson, quarterback of her high school's rival's football team, is being forced to work for her family the summer before their senior year, and D.J. has agreed to train him.
D.J. has some major self-esteem issues—she fully believes that she is neither pretty nor smart, yet just accepts this as cold hard fact. It bothers her a little sometimes, but mostly she just does what needs to be done without too much to say about it. In fact, she does a lot of stuff that needs to be done, including the majority of the farm work, which irritates her a little, but again she says nothing (after all, D.J. knows that good, old-fashioned hard work is one of her greatest talents). She does everything that's expected of her, until Brian makes a comment about how she's just like a cow and will do pretty much whatever anyone tells her to do.
This gets her thinking. She notices a lot of the people in her town of Red Bend are like cows, going through the motions without deviating from the norm, at least not really. D.J. decides she does not want to be a cow. And so she makes an awesome decision. She is going to try out for the Red Bend high school football team. How great is that? I never get to read about girls trying out for sports dominated by men, and D.J. decides to do it without really worrying about how she'll be treated by other people. In fact, her biggest concerns are a) how her father will take it (hint: not well), and b) how Brian will take it (hint: worse than her dad).
I enjoyed watching (or listening) how Brian and D.J.'s relationship developed over the course of his training and the summer working on the farm. Their hatred grows into a grudging friendship, which, for D.J., eventually turns into a bit more. It's a slow transition, but how refreshing to have a realistic crush in a YA book.
As D.J. starts to work toward goals for herself, she becomes more confident, though it's subtle. She doesn't rag on herself as much as the story progresses. One thing I didn't like at first is how she references to the present (a few months after the action of the story takes place); I like to not know about anything that might happen in the future unless it's through some kind of foreshadowing. But afterward, it made sense to me and I wasn't so annoyed by it anymore.
Murdock lightly touches on heavier issues like sexism and sexuality, along with her main themes of deviating from the norm and what is expected. She handled it all very well, working it into the story without forcing it or making it an issues novel.
I was also a big fan of the language. Typical teen speak, without sounding too forced. This was probably helped by Moore's fantastic narration. She had a slight Wisconsin accent, completely taking me into D.J.'s story. Plus she emphasized and read phrases in certain ways that I might not have necessarily done while reading it, and I think it was for the better. It all sounded completely natural, and I loved it.
And again, I'm going to come back to this: D.J. tries out for football. SO awesome. For some reason I really like football stories or stories with football, despite my lack of interest in the sport itself. Weird. But I totally loved this audio book and highly recommend it, even if you're not a football fan.
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from the library.