Thursday, October 22, 2009
Review: Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Tags: YA, farming, basketball, college decisions, love, self-confidence
Rating: 5 out of 5
After the football fiasco and taking care of her older brother Win after his paralyzing accident, D.J. Schwenk is happy to settle back into a comfortable routine of playing basketball for her high school team in rural Red Bend, Wisconsin. But try as she might, she can’t entirely escape the limelight. D.J. has college decisions to make if she wants to get an athletic scholarship—and she really needs one to go to college. Problem is, colleges want leaders on the court, and D.J.’s never been one for speaking out.
D.J. also has troubles in matters of the heart. Her good friend Beaner asks her out, and she isn’t sure how to respond to this new treatment. Then, Brian Nelson comes back into her life, after breaking her heart and letting her down more times than she wants to count. Will D.J. learn to take some risks and step outside her comfort zone for a chance to attain happiness and self-achievement?
After a lengthy detour into Win’s physical recovery, I very happily return to a D.J.-centered novel…and am far from disappointed. Indeed, I am utterly in love with FRONT AND CENTER. It is a perfectly written and sweet conclusion that won’t leave D.J. devotees disappointed.
It is a sign of great talent that an author can write a protagonist who is rather severely flawed in her thinking and self-concept, and yet is utterly lovable. D.J. has such low confidence in herself that you just want to beat her over the head with a stick and then give her a great big hug and a pep talk. D.J. is often infuriating, but she approaches everything with such a freshness that you cannot be angry at her. Instead, you will laugh with her, cry with her, and all throughout, cheer her on.
The power of the characters return in full force. The way D.J. narrates her story, there are no weak characters: everyone has a purpose and their own identity. All of the complex character development guarantees that you will fall in love with some, if not all, of them. Brian Nelson in particular is a sweetheart, and fans of him from the earlier books will appreciate his growth and maturation alongside D.J.’s.
The D.J. books contain remarkably authentic, yet relatable, details about situations involving rural living and sports. Even if you have no experience with either, D.J.’s candid and unassuming narration will make you fall right into her world and never want to come out. The particulars of both lifestyles are extraordinarily well researched, the in-school student dynamics realistic and relatable.
If you’re looking for a book containing a strong female protagonist, a contemporary story with equal parts excellent plotting and characterization, a sweet but not overbearing romance, tomboys, and lots of laughs, don’t hesitate to check out Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s books about D.J. Schwenk, starting with DAIRY QUEEN. I’m sad that the series has to end, but beyond satisfied at how Murdock elegantly ties everything together for a hopeful future. This is a series that should not be missed!
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Houghton Mifflin / Oct. 19, 2009 / Hardcover / $16.00
Basically, if you don't read this series, I will be forced to hunt you down and ask, WHY???? WHY NOT???!!!