Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Author . Houghton $16 (288p) ISBN 9
Finally, a football book a girl can love. With wry, self-deprecating wit, D.J. Schwenk narrates this story of her 15th summer. With her older brothers at college on football scholarships, and her father nursing a bad hip, most of the grueling work necessary to keep a small dairy farm running has fallen on D.J.'s broad shoulders. She had to quit basketball halfway through the season, and neglecting her homework earned her an F in sophomore English. Now, in addition to mucking out the barn and bringing in the hay, a family friend who coaches the rival high school's football team, has asked D.J. to train his talented but lazy starting quarterback, Brian Nelson. Brian may have brains, money and looks, but he's going to learn the meaning of hard work from D.J. And he, in turn, will teach D.J. how to communicate. (The way D.J. internalizes his observation of her, "You're like a cow," provides an ironic thread throughout.) This is Romeo and Juliet in Wisconsin, with cows, but it's more comic than tragic. Teens will readily identify with D.J.'s struggle to articulate her feelings of anger, confusion and romance within a family where silent, stalwart self-reliance is valued above all else. Murdock takes no cheap shots—every character she creates is empathetic: the electively mute younger brother, Curtis, the jaded best friend, Amber, even cranky, cold Dad, who finds his place (in the kitchen) when injury sidelines him. With humor, sports action and intelligence abundant, this tale has something for everyone. Ages 12-up.
Reviewed on: 05/15/2006