Skip to content

Dairy Queen

November 14, 2009

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children May 22, 2006

This whole enormous deal wouldn’t have happened, none of it, if Dad hadn’t messed up his hip moving the manure spreader.

This opens 15-year-old D.J. Schwenk’s story. Her father is recuperating from an injury, her two older brothers have left home, and her mom is holding down two jobs at a local school. The responsibility for running the family’s dairy farm has fallen on D.J.’s capable but overburdened shoulders. Because of this, she flunked tenth grade English. To further complicate things, her younger brother Curtis has virtually stopped talking. His elective muteness mirrors the way the whole family relates to one another. Their emotions, including anger, pride, and love, are held tightly in check, and most things go unsaid. However one thing that does connect D.J., her difficult father, and her brothers is a love of football.

Brian Nelson, who plays on a rival high school’s football team, shows up at the farm. His coach has sent him to help D.J. with the milking, bailing, and other never-ending tasks.

Because us Schwenks aren’t rich, and we’re not that smart, and except for Bill, and Mom when she was thin back before she got married, we’re nothing to look at. But one thing we can do is work. You want to learn how to work hard? Just look at us. We’re about the very best place for a snotty, rich, sit-on-your-butt kid like Brian to go.

D.J. teaches Brian how to work on the farm and helps him train for the upcoming season. However, when he accuses her of being a “cow,” someone who simply does everything she’s told, it cuts her deeply. To prove to herself that he’s wrong, she does something completely unexpected.

As a writing teacher, I read the work of young teens all the time, and this novel, told as D.J. writes down her experiences, feels more real than the narrator’s voice in any other young adult novel I have ever read. Not only did the language strike me as incredibly authentic, but the story drew me in and made me feel I was in D.J.’s skin. I have never farmed or played football, but I felt the sweat and itchiness and she baled hay and the tension and exhilaration of running across the field with a football. I became a part of her feelings and experiences. I also fell in love with D.J. herself. She is thoroughly genuine, down to earth, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

If you enjoy YA fiction, do NOT miss this one!

Read another review at Lost in a Book and another at Bookshelves of Doom.

Rating:

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: