I was immediately drawn in by the eye-catching cover on this audiobook featuring an adorable cow wearing a tiara. Unfortunately, the cover has been changed for the paperback edition. The new cover features a boy and girl, reclining in a green field.
D.J. Schwenk is a girl jock in a sports-obsessed family in rural Red Bend, Wisconsin. Her older brothers have gone off to college on football scholarships, and when her father needs hip surgery, it falls on her shoulders to keep the dairy farm going over the summer. The cows have been named after famous football players and coaches, and, of course, 4-H plays an important part in their lives. D.J. takes up an offer from a family friend to help train a player for the neighboring football team (as if she doesn't have enough to do already.) But, football is her passion, and over the course of the summer, she comes to realize she doesn't want to be a coach, what she really wants to do is play the game herself. I thought her gradual coming around to the decision of wanting to play football was very well done. It's a journey and she takes you along with her.
D.J. is funny and likable, and almost too nice. I can't believe how much she does on the farm, how much she forgives and how quick she is to see other people's sides, especially Brian Nelson who was the instrument of her brother's football field humiliation a year ago. But, it is a small town where you must move past and live with these things if you want to be able to cope at all. D.J. and her family aren't big talkers: "When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said." Her younger brother Curtis almost never speaks at all. It turns out that he secretly wants to be a dentist, and in a family of jocks, he feels like a misfit. Anything that strikes her as sensitive, kind or intelligent she thinks of in terms of her heroine, Oprah Winfrey.
D.J. isn't perfect... when her best friend Amber comes out to her, she drops her like a hot potato, uncertain of how to handle this surprising news. Thankfully, things do resolve in a satisfactory way by the end of the story. D.J. handles being called names, "dyke" and so on for being a female athlete with aplomb.
The only thing that I found unbelievable was the turn-around with D.J.'s dad suddenly being a "good cook" by the end of the summer. When D.J. describes one casserole dish as being akin to "hot vomit" I was utterly grossed out. And her father's improvised chicken and prunes dish sounded positively nauseating. At the end of the book, when D.J. admits that her dad's meals are "actually pretty good." I just couldn't believe it. No way, no how.
I enjoyed the accent, although I had to wonder: would it be considered accurate enough to please a Wisconsin native? The last audiobook I listened to had plenty of positive reviews for the New England accent -- though it didn't sound entirely genuine to me. Natalie Moore's narration sounded believable. It was strong enough to give a sense of place, yet not indecipherable in the least.
Dairy Queen took me to a completely different world. I can't imagine being a jock. Can't imagine being surrounded by people who like and actually care about football. Can't imagine living on a farm. But, I found the characters and situations to be compelling and relatable, nonetheless. The story is soon to be a trilogy. There is a sequel: The Off Season, and the third book, Front and Center will be released this fall. There are also rumors that the book may be in development for a movie or tv series.