Front and Center marks the end of Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s fantastically funny, heart-warming (and I think as close to perfect as you can get) Dairy Queen trilogy featuring D.J. Schwenk.
Just a sec… I need a moment. (Is it really the end? Really?)
The story picks up after D.J. has been away from school, dealing with her brother Win’s life-changing spinal-cord injury. She heads back to Red Bend High School hoping to fade into the background, D.J.-style. This is not what life has in store, however. Her basketball coach is pushing her to take more of a leadership role on the court so that she can make the best impression on college scouts. Her friend Beaner is becoming more than just a friend, which is kind of weird but also nice, and then there’s Brian. As much as she is trying not to think about Brian, D.J. finds this is hard to do when he keeps on showing up in her life. Suddenly, she’s getting a lot of attention, and she’s not sure she can handle the pressure.
Hilarity and heart-ache and happy-endings ensue. But you have to start with books one and two to fully appreciate the amazing realism of these characters, particularly D.J. From the beginning with all three of these books, it’s D.J.’s voice that will draw you in. She’s funny and smart and honest, and she struggles when life throws her curve balls (or tackles her, or steals the ball from her and trips her… or whatever. I do not pretend to know much about football or basketball). But one of the best things about this book, and the others, is that D.J. never veers towards the yawn-inducing, woe-is-me kind of self-absorption that you so often encounter with some main characters in YA. D.J. is as real and likeable as a character can be, and you can do nothing but cheer her on throughout the trilogy.
I am already planning a back-to-back Dairy Queen – The Off Season – Front and Center marathon sometime this summer. Guaranteed reading bliss. Thank you Catherine, for D.J. We’ll miss her.