I read Dairy Queen a few months back and totally loved it, but hadn't had a chance to read the sequel Off Season until recently. What a great couple of books these are -- and not just because I have family in Wisconsin either!
Dairy Queen introduces us to 15-year old DJ Schwenk who lives on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin. She has three brothers, two who are local football stars, and a father who was recently injured and is now unable to work the farm.
Here's a pull from the School Library Journal review:
Between milking cows, mucking out the barn, and mowing clover, this erstwhile jock takes on training Brian, the rival high school's quarterback. A monster crush and a tryout for her own school's football team ensue. DJ, a charming if slightly unreliable narrator, does a good deal of soul-searching while juggling her grinding work schedule, an uncommunicative family, and a best friend who turns out to be gay. Savvy readers will anticipate plot turns, but the fun is in seeing each twist through DJ's eyes as she struggles with whether she really is, as Brian puts it, like a cow headed unquestioningly down the cattle shoot of life. Wry narration and brisk sports scenes bolster the pacing and DJ's tongue-tied nature and self-deprecating inner monologues contribute to the novel's many belly laughs. At the end, though, it is the protagonist's heart that will win readers over.
These books are listed as for grades 7 through 10, so they're not for middle grade readers. But DJ is written wonderfully. Girls will totally relate to her struggles, even if they can't relate to living in the country, or playing football.
The follow up, Off Season, is just as enjoyable, and picks up right where Dairy Queen leaves off. Without revealing too much of the plot, which would ruin it, let me say that this book was a bit tougher emotionally with situations that arise due to her best friend's relationship with her mother, and a family tragedy.
These books would make GREAT GIFTS (i'm a big book pusher when it comes to holiday presents) for teenage girls. 4 bookmarks for the series, and I look forward to reading Murdock's most recent book, the YA fantasy "Princess Ben."