Dairy Queen: a novel by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, narrated by Natalie Moore, Listening Library 2006 (print edition published by Houghton Mifflin)
I knew the story of D.J. Schwenk, the football loving teen from Red Bend, Wisconsin, had captured the imagination of readers at schools where I sub, because several girls told me I "really" needed to read this book.
What I did not anticipate was being completely and totally blown away by Natalie Moore's insightful and wholly authentic narration. Her voicing of D.J.'s frustrations, her hopes and inner dialog is spot on, at once self-aware, wistful and totally endearing.
There is pride in her voice as she almost single handed keeps the family dairy farm going. Her resentment at her father's slow recovery from hip surgery is understandable as exhaustion overtakes her at times. Still, D.J. is philosophical and accepts the hard work and tries not to dwell on the toll it has taken on her academics and school life.
When Brian, the quarterback from the rival high school football team, is ordered to "help out" at the Schwenk farm by his football coach, D.J. is disgusted with his lack of discipline and work ethic. Used to training with her older brothers who are now away at college on football scholarships, D.J. finds herself enjoying their workouts which have evolved from the daily chores and agrees to act as Brian's trainer for the summer. As time goes by, she has to admit to herself that she enjoys Brian's friendship and that it might be evolving into something more.
Murdock captures life in a small town where football is the lifeblood of the community and cows are named for football players and coaches. I'm off to find the sequel. Surely, Moore gets an encore, she is D.J.'s voice for me.
Dairy Queen is one of twenty titles on the always excellent Texas Lone Star reading list for 2007-2008..