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Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert…
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Book Three of “The Dairy Queen” series picks up shortly after the end of the second book in this trilogy. D.J. (for Darlene Joyce) Schwenk, 16 now, is six feet tall, athletic, funny, and the charming narrator of this trilogy about her “coming of age” in Red Bend, Wisconsin. D.J. was playing football for her high school for a while, but had to give it up after an injury; now she is concentrating on becoming a better basketball player so she can get a scholarship to college. She also remains fixated on Brian Nelson, the quarterback of Red Bend’s main rival, Hawley, and someone who seemed to like her, but only when his friends couldn’t see he was with her instead of someone “cooler.” She decides she deserves better.

She starts going out with a boy she has always considered a friend, “Beaner” Halstaad, but she just doesn’t feel that “spark” she felt with Brian. And of course, that’s not her only problem. In order to excel at basketball, she has to exhibit leadership skills, which means speaking out and being assertive, something the shy D.J. has always avoided. In fact, the very idea frightens her enough that she wants to avoid the better teams of Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), just so she can stay in the background.

D.J. has to figure out if she can overcome her fears to become all that she can be, and decide on the best way to deal with her conflicted feelings about the boys in her life. Those of us who have been following D.J.’s progress since Book One of this appealing series know she will figure out a way; the fun is going through the process with her.

Evaluation: Book Three of this charming coming-of-age series is mostly wrapping up the issues presented in the previous books. But overall, this series has a lot of positive aspects and is full of humor. The protagonist is comfortable with her “non-size zero” body and learns to capitalize on her other assets at well. I strongly recommend this series for girls who don’t fit into the usual mold of “the popular set” in high school. ( )
  nbmars | Aug 16, 2015 |
A fitting and very satisfying conclusion to the DJ series! What a wonderful character!
  devafagan | Jan 2, 2015 |
There seems to be curse among YA authors who do trilogies. After a fantastic 2 and a half books, with characters you know and love, that critical ending that has to be perfect to satisfy you and give you enough closure - and it sucks. It's disappointing and it almost ruins the whole thing for you (see the Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver or The Wolves Of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater and you'll know what I'm talking about). So, as you can expect, I was a little worried about opening up Front and Center and see how it all ends for DJ.

I did not have that problem with Front and Center. I loved the story, and I loved the ending - how it was not about Brian or Beaner or boys, it was about DJ and Win and her realisation that she saved his life and he helped hers and oh God I just cried. It was a beautiful ending, and a beautiful story, and as a reader I felt closure for the trilogy but I would also welcome another book (Murdock hinted at a book about DJ's freshman year of college but not for a while yet).

I'm going to miss DJ!

Should this be under spoilers? Oh well, too bad. ( )
  crashmyparty | Dec 9, 2014 |
You know what? I think this one is my favorite of the trilogy. Only with Front and Center does D.J. really come of age. She does her growing up and embraces herself and generally comes to recognize her own awesomeness. Murdock continues to tackle tough issues in a real life way, and again focuses on parts of life you don’t see too much in young adult fiction.

Read the A Reader of Fictions. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Oct 22, 2013 |
This book and series was excellent. I would recommend it to an athletic girl. It was really perfect for me because right now I am struggling to make my own difficult decisions and it helped me with how to make decisions .very funny and inspiring. I read this book because I really liked Dairy Queen and the off Season so I just had to read the final one to see how it ended.
  edspicer | Apr 28, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618959823, Hardcover)

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After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I'm always in the background...

But it turns out other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who's keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is done with, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway...

Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Catherine Murdock

Dear Amazon Reader:

The Dairy Queen series began with a dream and ends with a pizza.

In late 2003, I had a dream about a girl playing football. As I'd been studying screenwriting for eight years, I immediately began to craft this idea into a script. Then, all too aware of my script failure rate, I decided to attempt a "practice novel" using everything I'd learned about character development, plotting, dialogue, and description. Today, I can offer aspiring authors this hard-earned advice: If you want to write halfway decent books, start by writing truly horrendous screenplays.

I set Dairy Queen in Wisconsin, as I have family there and so can visualize the landscape, and I laid it out as a traditional three-act script, the only story structure I knew. I never intended to write a second book--I really love the vagueness of Dairy Queen’s ending--but when the publisher asked if I had a sequel in me, what could I answer but "Yes"? I love The Off Season's ending as well, but readers (may I mention how utterly fantastic the fan mail is?) wanted more. So--boom--I found myself writing a third. All of a sudden I had a trilogy.

Given what I'd learned about college sports recruiting from the first two books, it seemed only natural to examine this in Front and Center, while of course continuing the saga of D.J. Schwenk's love life. So many stories have as their conflict "Will the hero(ine) get the scholarship? Will s/he get the love interest?" And of course you already know the answers on page 1. To me, a much more challenging story, both to read and to write, would be "Does she want a scholarship? And which love interest will be it be: the dreamboat who keeps breaking her heart, or the safe, fun guy who's not quite Mr. Right?" Call me old fashioned, but I like a little mystery in my narrative. Which is why I'm also not going to tell you how the pizza fits in. But it does. Really.


Catherine Murdock

(Photo © Greg Martin)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who?s keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is done with, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway . . .… (more)

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