During the summer, she has to help train Brian, the quarterback for the rival high school's football team, as a favor to the coach, a longtime friend of her father's. D.J. does so reluctantly at first, only to strike up a friendship with him -- and realize how much she herself enjoys the game. She enjoyed it so much, in fact, that she decides to go out for the team when the school year starts back up again. Some folks think she shouldn't simply because she's a girl. She proves them wrong.
D.J. also goes through a rough patch with her long-time best friend, Amber, and almost doesn't believe it herself when the two girls argue and drift apart.
In the sequel, The Off-Season, D.J. continues to juggle her school life, her home life, and her sports life. Homework and farmwork just keep coming. Then she gets injured, which obviously and completely changes her athletic schedule. Further complicating matters are D.J.'s mixed feelings about Brian and her strained relationship with her best friend. When two other family members become hurt in debilitating ways, the Schwenks have to come together in a big way - and have to make even more sacrifices.
Though these books have been strongly received by sports fans, please note that there's more to these stories than just football. It is also about family. It is about growing up on a farm, about growing up in a small town, and simply about growing up. Though D.J.'s family members don't talk or emote very much, they are everpresent: the farm and her father are always on her mind, and she misses her brothers in fits and starts.
In both books, D.J. has a lot on her plate, and if she doesn't balance it correctly, she may have to drop something and disappoint her family and herself.
Give Dairy Queen and The Off-Season to girls you know who refuse to back down when coaches tell them girls shouldn't or can't play certain sports - and tell them that YES, THEY CAN!
Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover
The first book became a great discussion topic in my store and on blogs - even with people who haven't read it yet. Why? Because of two big things: the cover art and the plotline.
The hardcover version of Dairy Queen depicts a cow wearing a tiara and has the title written in pink. With that cover and that title, it attracted people who don't normally read about farm life and football. At the same time, people who WOULD like the story may not have picked it up. Some have said that looks like something which boys may shrug off or balk at, to which I add that D.J. herself might do the same. It's a cute cover, but it doesn't fit the character.
The paperback version of Dairy Queen has a completely different cover. The Off-Season shows D.J. wearing basic running clothes and a baseball hat, which is more fitting.
If you like Dairy Queen, you should also check out the corny-but-cute made-for-television movie Quarterback Princess starring Helen Hunt.
Hey There, Sports Fan
Just Say No to Gender Bias
Cybils 2006 YA Nominees
Judging the Cover