The Off Season
This book, the sequel to Murdock’s Dairy Queen, may be marketed for young adults, but it’s not the equivalent of Sweet Valley High or The Princess Diaries, as both the book and heroine D.J. Schwenk have their feet planted firmly in reality. D.J. is a high school junior in rural Red Bend, Wisconsin, who has a lot on her plate: handling the pressure and jibes directed at her as the first female member of the high school football team; trying to figure out and handle her feelings for Brian, the quarterback of the rival high school team; and putting in hours of work on her family’s dairy farm, worrying that said farm will soon go under; trying to reconnect with her best friend, Amber, who has recently come out and is dating an older woman; and, of course, struggling with school work.
The Off Season is such a gripping read that I read it a single sitting. D.J. is such a believable, sympathetic character and faces up to her challenges (including a big one towards the end of the novel) that the reader empathizes with her throughout, even when she does something somewhat foolish. Murdock does an admirable job of capturing the rhythm and concerns of small town and rural life and has an ear for dialogue. The supporting characters, including her father, mother and younger brother, ring true and are fleshed out enough that they give us a picture of D.J.’s upbringing and family life. This is one-level headed girl with a down-to-earth grip on what’s important in life. I can’t wait to read of her further adventures.