Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Reviewed by Liesl

Published: 2006

It's about: After D.J. Schwenk’s father gets injured, she takes over the brunt of the farm duties since her two older brothers are at football camp and her younger brother often gets out of chores by succeeding in his sports. The work is grueling and even causes her to fail a class, but D.J. never complains or says one word about it. She seeks for her father's approval, but rarely gets it. She worries about her younger brother, Curtis, who hardly talks at all. Things between her best friend Amber and her are becoming strained. Added to that, she begins training Brian Nelson, starting quarterback of the rival town's high school’s football team. She has to keep this a secret, because the rivalry between the towns is so bitter. After starting off rough, she and Brian become friends and D.J. learns how to communicate openly and gains a greater self-confidence.

I thought: I picked out this book because I know all too well what it feels like to have a brother who doesn’t talk, but it became more than that. D.J.’s character is positively engaging. She’s a big, strong girl who often finds herself tongue-tied and frustrated that I couldn’t help but root for her. The novel is narrated from first-person perspective, and D.J. has a somewhat sarcastic and thoughtful voice as she discusses events and makes observations on the world around her. It keeps me interested in what may have been a slightly predictable story.

I loved her self-deprecating monologues, and I loved the characters and the people she interacted with. All of the characters are well-rounded, real people who sometimes don't always do what one would expect. There were times where I wanted to hate a character one minute, but then I found out something new about them and it changed my perspective. I felt I grew with D.J. as she found out new things about her acquaintances and learned to communicate better, and found out that hey, it’s not always a bad thing to have silence.

Verdict: On the shelf, please.

Reading Recommendations: Anyone who likes YA literature would enjoy this.

Warnings: Some swearing and mentions of sex

Favorite excerpts: "If there ever was a TV show called People Who Are Crazy and Need to Have Their Heads Examined, I'd be the very first guest. They'd put me on one of those couches and a guy with a beard and funny accent would ask me questions, and the audience would ooh and aah as they realized this girl was crazy. What else would explain what I had just done?"

“We could have been a ‘Save the Family Farm’ poster only it would have been too depressing.”

"Amber was pretty good at making fun of people, but Brian -- well, he did make fun of other people, like me not being able to talk or his mom and sunblock, but it wasn't mean. It was just fun. If I had to make a list of the very best qualities someone could have, that would be right at the top. Being nice-fun instead of mean-fun."

"I kept eating, my head down. Mom kept talking, but I didn't say anything else because that's what we Schwenk's do. If there's a problem or something, instead of solving it or anything, we just stop talking. Just like cows."

What I'm reviewing next: Of Two Minds by Carol Matas and Perry Nodelman