Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Dairy Queen (Dairy Queen, #1) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Title: Dairy Queen (Dairy Queen, #1)

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Rating: 4 Stars

If Dairy Queen taught me anything, it was, first and foremost, that I am a horrible read-along buddy. Seriously. I was only supposed to read five chapters of this today and I wound up reading all twelve chapters until the end, reading in the hallways, through classes, and on the bus ride back home. Needless to say, it was a little hard for me to put this book down after a point and even now, I can't get it out of my head. Dairy Queen is everything you wish for in a contemporary novel and so much more. It's original. Yes,original! You'd think in a genre dominated by Ruby Oliver and Jessica Darling that we couldn't possibly get another lively, spunky, and heart-warming heroine to join the two, but DJ Shwenk makes a niche for herself. 

Dairy Queen is unlike any other contemporary novel I’ve read, simply because it is set on a farm. D.J. Shwenk helps her parents by working on their farm all day, but her rote summer routine is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Brian Nelson. Brian is the quarterback of the rival high school, Red Bend, which D.J.’s school, Hawley, has practically always lost to. While this may not be such a big deal to most people, to D.J. whose two older brothers are professional football players in college, it certainly is. Thus, their exchange doesn’t quite go as planned and Brian leaves off in a storm – only after letting D.J. know exactly what he thinks of her, of course. D.J.’s life isn’t perfect – her younger brother, Curtis, won’t talk; she flunked English (actually failed); her father’s hip is broken and he can’t cook even though he insists on doing so; her mother is busy and seems to be hiding secrets; Amber, D.J.’s best friend, seems to be more aloof than usual; and of course, D.J.’s older brothers haven’t spoken to her family in a very, very long time. With the help of Brian, her own voice, and a little bit of courage, this summer just could be the one to change D.J.’s life – if only she’ll try.

It’s difficult for me to put into words exactly what I love so much about D.J. Shwenk. I suppose, at the heart of everything, she’s surprisingly real. D.J.’s problems aren’t like most protagonists you’d come across and her voice is heart-warmingly honest, making it a true delight to read. Dairy Queen will make you laugh, it’ll make you smile, it’ll make you cringe, it’ll make you want to bury your face under a pillow, and it’ll make you want to punch people. Yet, by the end of it, it’ll make you so hopeful and happy that your heart just may burst. It’s one of the sweetest novels I’ve read, not only about growing up, realizing your mistakes, and correcting them, but also about family. Dairy Queen isn’t just D.J’s story – it’s the story of her father, her mother, her brothers, and even Brian. It shows us all that everyone is flawed, but despite that, they have the capability to do something about it.

Dairy Queen tackles on a lot of difficult subjects, but it’s never overdone that it takes away from the novel or so pushed under the table that you crave more depth. In fact, the balance Murdock strikes is perfect. Furthermore, the romance in this novel is so subtle that you can’t help but admire it. It is, first and foremost, a friendship and from there it grows in such a way that you could almost miss it if you weren’t paying close enough attention. Although Dairy Queen is a quick book, it’s by no means forgettable and so much about it can brighten up your day just by thinking about it, making it one of those contemporaries you want to thrust into the hands of every unsuspecting person who may walk down the street.

Thus, consider me virtually thrusting this into your unsuspecting hands because even if you don’t comprehend the full scale of the depth this novel provides, it’ll cheer you up for a few hours and truly make you think. Dairy Queen made me look upon my own life and my own family, much like D.J. is forced to reflect upon hers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the emotional and educational journey that Dairy Queen took me on, making me pause, contemplate, and wonder both about myself and my family, was what made this novel ring so true with me. It isn’t like Sloppy Firsts where Jessica Darling and I could practically be the same person. It isn’t like Ruby Oliver where Ruby could be my wise older sister, raining down her years of well-learned trouble down on me. It is completely different, completely unique, yet completely heart-warming all the same. Just as D.J. has made her own niche in the world of contemporary fiction, Dairy Queen too will make its own niche – right in your heart. 


  1. Yes! I love D.J. so much, I'm thrilled that she found another fan. I know what you mean, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly WHAT is so unusual and amazing about her, but she is so easy to love and admire. She can be a book character or someone living just down the street, that's how real and natural she seems.
    I think what helps is that Murdoch is truly an extraordinary writer, with those clean, neat sentences and good sense of pacing.
    Anyway, I'm so happy you enjoyed this! You'll love the other books too.
    Btw, I'm a horrible readalong partner too. :( Go us.

  2. Haha, I am a terrible read-a-longer as well, I can never stop (if the book is good, of course!)

    And this really does sound fantastic, I love books that make me inspect my own life and DJ sounds like a great girl!

  3. LOVE this review Keertana, you like Leanne nailed how much of an awesome read this book really is! I was so surprised by how different this book actually was, but praise Murdock for making it so out there! I keep checking but my second book has still to arrive! I definitely will be jumping in as soon as it does! :)

  4. You keep coming up with reviews for books that are completely new to me Keertana, I love it! Or, possibly, I'm just out of the loop and everyone else is aware of these books and I just have my head stuck in the sand like a champ:) I've been on a contemporary roll lately, so I'm definitely adding this one to my list - it's obviously way more complex and layered than it's simple cover suggests!

  5. You sound like me when it comes to read-alongs. Either I'll be reading a page a day or finished in a few hours. :D Pacing is not my strong point. ;)

    This sounds fantastic! I hadn't even heard of this book or its author until I saw you and the others reading it. It's the sort of contemporary tale I actually enjoy so I definitely need to read this one day. Fantastic review as always, hon!

  6. Fantastic review, Keertana! I absolutely love Dairy Queen for exactly the same reasons you stated in your review :)

    -Grace from The Humble Watermelon

    P.S. I love your new title design/art! It's so lovely!

  7. I had this one recommended not so long ago so its on my wishlist. I love Jessica Darling so a character as slinky as her appeals to me very much. Your review has me thinking I may not be able to wait too much longer for this one!

  8. Keertana, darling, you know I love you dearly, but you are going to have to stop doing this. Reading good books that I've never heard of because you make me want to read them too. haha.

    Especially when I can't get ahold of the book or they aren't in kindle format, the only type of books my mother will allow me to buy these days.

    Seriously though, your review was beautiful and you managed to sell me a book I don't like to read. A darn contemporary romance. The only reason I hear of contemporary books these days is down to you and Rachel and Jasprit. I never read them before you lot. I swear, stop this. I like my fantasy! :P

    All things considered, Dairy Queen is another book on my wishlist and thank you for the wonderful review!!

  9. Never fear, Keertana, you are a TERRIFIC read along buddy! Honestly the best person to get into long - winded but fascinating, thought-provoking discussions with whilst reading books. I'm so glad you read this with Jasprit and I!
    And your review is absolutely perfect, btw. You pinpointed exactly what I loved about this book. :) It's quite an addictive series so I know I'll be reading the sequel soon!

  10. This series sounds so sweet and charming, and YES, like it could fit on a shelf beside Jessica Darling and Ruby Oliver. As a country girl, I'd probably really dig the farm aspect as well. Though I have to be honest, I think I've kind of grown out of these types of contemps. It's not that they're not great reads, it's just that I'm *gasp* too old to really appreciate them the way I would have in high school. BUT if the contemp urge strikes, I do want to keep this one on my mind. Great review, Keertana!

  11. I have all three books on my kindle for this series, Keetana. I've had them there for over a year. I'm taking a holiday from everything the last two weeks in December and I plan on reading all of them during that time. Lovely review. Reading this has give me that extra push! :)

  12. I am so glad that you enjoyed this so much, Keertana! I've been considering reading this for a while now (mostly because I know it takes place in my current state of residence. Yeah Wisconsin!). I'm not too interested in portrayals of small-town life or high school necessarily, but sometimes I think they'd be a good way to diversify what I'm reading. And it also sounds like a feel-good book, and who doesn't like those? (I also need to read about Jessica Darling and Ruby Oliver at some point!)

  13. I love this little book with the big heart so much too, Keertana! I happened upon it a my local library last year (or maybe the year before)and though I haven't reviewed it, I just LOVED it. I loved DJ, everything about her, her humor and her heart, she is one of the most likable YA protag's I have ever encountered. I agree, this little book doesn't get the press it deserves, it's a real gem.

    Your review made me want to read it again and then pick up my copy of The Off Season and read it.Great review!

  14. I loved Dairy Queen, and I highly recommend it for upper middle school and high school readers. It's quite clean, except for some references to underage drinking. While I think that boys could enjoy it, given all of the football and training references, the female protagonist might keep them away. But I hope that the football aspects of the story won't keep non-athletic girls away. Because once you give her a chance, D.J. has a lot to offer.


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