Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

In DJ Schenk's family, people don't talk much and, when they do talk, they get pretty angry with each other. That's easy for them to do because they have a lot to be angry about. DJ's father is angry to be injured, her Mom is angry that Dad drove away his sons. Little brother Curtis doesn't say much to anyone. And DJ spends a lot of time taking care of the farm and the family, doing her best to please everyone, just like one of the cows on the farm. However, things change when she spends the summer training Brian (the aspiring QB of arch rival Hawley's football team). And then she decides to go out for football herself.

In honor of today's "big game," let me come clean and say that I'm not a big fan of sports or sport fiction, but this novel really hines as something of a notable exception. From strong, realistic characters to an interesting narrative voice to good plotting, Murdock has a talent with writing that I really hope to see much more of (and will soon, as her next novel comes out this summer!).

On a negative note: I really DO wish that writers would do their homework or stick to subjects that they know. It's hard to read a book like this and not be bothered by the factual inaccurancies. For example, no dairy farm in the US (let alone in WI) could survive if the barn wasn't clean because the dairy inspectors would shut it down. Secondly, a high school with 120 students per class would hardly be considered "small" in rural Wisconsin. To the contrary, any high school up near Eau Claire with that many students would be one of the largest in the area. And any school that size would have no problem fielding a large football team. These are sloppy mistakes that a few hours on the Internet could have prevented.

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