by julie swanson
The YA novel Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock was a refreshing find for me when it came out (2006). It’s Tomboy Jock Lit at its best. I really enjoyed it and found the main character, D.J. Schwenk, to be an endearing original who I hated to leave at the end of the story.
So I was glad when Catherine Gilbert Murdock wrote two more books featuring the same main character–The Off Season (2007), and Front and Center (2009). I show the various hardcover and softcover versions of each book here because they’re so different (obviously the cow theme is there across the series, but I mean the hardcover version of each book is so different from the paperback versions). And I don’t think any one cover does a good job of giving you an idea of what the story is about, but if you look at all three Dairy Queen covers, you get a tiny bit better idea. The covers with the girl wearing the black-and-white cow stuff may be visually catchy, but they seem the least fitting to me. The way DJ Schenk was portrayed in the story, she wouldn’t be caught dead in a cow shirt, boots, or mini skirt. She’s a big, shy farm girl and an athlete and the stories do have some romance in them, but the covers make it look like the books are chick-lit, and they’re not (they give the impression that the mc might be a cheerleader). The hardcover version of The Off Season is the most true to the tone of the stories. I understand that the covers are probably designed to draw in a wider audience, but let’s face it, the girls who are going to love these books the most are the ones who are athletes and/or tomboys.
I don’t want to tell too much about the stories because I’ve never liked it when someone gives it all away and builds up a movie or story to be such an amazing thing, leaving open only the possibility of letdown. Let’s just say they are good, with interesting personalities and story lines, that they’re funny but have a lot of heart to them. The main character lives (and works) on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and she plays football and basketball (and she’s good, but not cocky), and she has older brothers who are/were college football players, and she has unique friends and relationships and a growing interest in boys. The farm, her family’s problems, her love of sports, her brothers, her friends, her college plans, it all figures in interestingly.