Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review: Dairy Queen

Title Dairy Queen (Unabridged Audio Version)
Author Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Read by Natalie Moore)
Genre YA Commercial Fiction
Rating B

Summary D.J. Schwenk is sixteen years old and doing her best (with a little help from her selectively-mute younger brother) to keep the family farm going. Her dad's hip replacement surgery is taking longer to heal than planned, her mom's busy working two jobs (perhaps just to stay away from the house), and her two older brothers are definitely staying away from the house (they have been ever since "the big fight"). And on top of all of that, D.J. has to deal with pain-in-the-butt, knows-he's-too-cool-for-school Brian Nelson being forced to help her on the farm. D.J. had usually been able to count on her best friend Amber to decompress, but Amber's been acting, um, weird. Really weird. Mostly about D.J. spending so much time with Brian. And when D.J. announces that she wants to be the starting running back for her high school's football team, well, everybody starts acting weird.

Review There were a fair number of good or really good things about this book. The characters were all genuinely interesting and complex, but totally believable. D.J.'s inner struggle about doing what makes her feel empowered, rather than just always doing what's expected of her, was engaging enough to keep me listening. The rest of D.J.'s family (parents and three brothers) and the two other characters that we get a fair amount of time to look at (Amber and Brian) are fraught with their own problems. We look at their problems through the first-person lens of D.J., but Murdock wrote her insightful enough (without being an adult) that we get a broad perspective.

And the inner-personal relationships are what it's all about when it comes to this book. You're left with a wee bit of a cliff-hanger. All throughout the book the tension and build-up between D.J. and Brian simmers (it wouldn't be YA without angsty love, would it?), and at the end you're wondering, "Wait, are they together or are they friends? Because I'm really not sure." But never to worry because there are two more books in this series (The Off Season and Front and Center), both of which are already released.

I'll be picking those books up for reading because the characters grabbed me. (I actually teared up at a couple of points.) But please note that I said I would be reading the books.

This was my first real foray into audio books and they're just not for me. I know a lot of people listen to audio books in the car, but I commute, so that wasn't an option. (And it would be rude to download it onto my iPod and not converse with my co-rider. That's not how we roll.) So I ended up listening to while laying on my bed (which is often how I read a book), BUT with a book, I can read a lot faster silently than an actress can dramatically read a book.

And a little bit more about the actress: Her Wisconsin accent was good (in so far as I could tell, never having been to Wisconsin). And she had a pretty wide range of "voices," I could keep all the characters straight (which was something I wasn't sure I'd be able to do during the dialogue with an audio book), but not all the characters' voices had much emotional range. It was most noticeable for Brian (who was a really important character to the book, with a lot of dialogue). I thought the actress always made him sound stoned. He could be saying something funny or getting vulnerable about his parents' marriage problems, and he always sounded like he was baked.

That's why I'll be reading the next.

None the less, thanks to the lovely ladies at Stacked who gifted me this audio book in a give-away on their blog. I enjoyed the book, appreciate getting exposed to great new YA series, and having a little audio book experience officially under my book belt.

No comments: