The Off Season
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Publisher: Listening Library, 2007 (print edition from Houghton Mifflin)
Narrator: Natalie Moore
Starting where Dairy Queen left off, D.J. tells the story of the fall of her junior year. Things seem to be going her way finally, what with playing for her high school's football team, spending time with Brian Nelson, and doing better in school. Her older brothers are talking with her family again, though her oldest brother Win is still a bit distant. But D.J. lets us know right away that this won't last, since she tells us she's writing all this in a hospital. Things start to go downhill when she and Brian end up in a feature for People after a misunderstanding (which is kind of hilarious, by the way). Things quickly get worse after Amber runs off with Dale, her girlfriend, and D.J. has to stop football because of an injury. But the worst event happens during one of Win's college games—he gets hit in just the wrong way, causing a spinal cord injury that leaves him partially paralyzed.
Still told with humor, though the story D.J. is telling is clearly more serious than her previous one, The Off Season is an entirely satisfying sequel. D.J. is growing and maturing, though it's subtle and happens gradually as each incident crops up in her life. Once again, she becomes the glue that is keeping her family from falling apart, taking responsibility for things her parents and her brothers can't quite handle. She keeps a brave front and does what she can for everyone she loves. It's really hard not to like D.J., and I definitely wouldn't mind having her for a sister.
What I think I love most about D.J. in this book is how she realizes she not only needs to do what's best for her family, she also needs to do what's best for her. She discovers the path she needs to take, and once she does she's a stronger girl for it. She finally begins to truly see and understand her own worth, and I love that.
I also learned a lot about sports injuries, told in a way that is incredibly easy to understand. Because D.J. is a novice to this stuff herself, she does a great job at explaining what happens to her brother and the path he's going to have to take. There's a lot of easy-to-understand (not to mention interesting and useful) science going on here, which is always a plus.
Again, Natalie Moore does an excellent job at narrating. She's probably one of the best narrators I've ever come across in my audiobook listening, definitely top three. She rocks that Wisconsin accent and talks just like teens would, a job made easier for her by Murdock's grasp on teen dialogue. In this second book I've listened to narrated by Moore, I realized how good a job she does at distinguishing each character's voice from everyone else's. She makes it very clear who is talking. She also makes it clear when D.J. is speaking to other characters in the book versus when she is narrating the story, which gets two thumbs up from me.
I loved this book, both the story and the narration. I can't wait to listen to the last in the trilogy, though I will be sad that I'll be done with D.J.'s story! I highly recommend this to pretty much everyone. It's just a great story with great characters, and it's told really well. Go read it! Or listen to it. You won't regret it. (Side note: As of right now, the print edition is only $3.47 on Amazon! Totally worth the buy. You can click on the link at the top to get to the page.)
Disclosure: I got this book from the library.