The Off Season
A Unique Subject for YA
What I Loved:
The Off Season differs quite a bit from Dairy Queen. Where in Dairy Queen, the focus is all on DJ, she is, in some ways, not the central character in The Off Season, playing a more supportive role: sister and daughter. Though I think I was perhaps a bit less interested in the plot of The Off Season than in Dairy Queen or Front Center, which I've already started, I'm also hugely impressed by the content and daring in the subject matter.
Murdock takes some risks with the second book in the series, no question. Right at the very beginning, after the first book in the series was all about D.J. managing to join the boys' football team, she quits. She has reasons, good ones, but it's still anticlimactic after all the build up. However, it's such a mature choice, because, if she didn't stop playing, a minor injury might become a bigger deal and prevent her from playing basketball, which is pretty much her only shot at a scholarship and college. Though it's sad to see her give up on her football, seeing D.J. be so mature and face up so bravely to the judgment of her classmates is inspiring.
The real story here, though, isn't about D.J., though she's central to it and crucial to the way things unfold. Her oldest brother, Win, is injured in a football game, one the whole family was watching live. Injuries happen in football all the time, but this one is life-changing: Win's spinal cord snapped. He will never walk again, and that's just one thing among many that he'll never be able to do again. His dreams have been crushed, and he had a real shot at pro ball. Even with intense physical therapy, he'll probably not regain much use of his body. The Off Season is about Win's injury and the way the Schwenk family pulls together to help him.
D.J. basically puts her whole life on hold to help Win, because no one else in her family can take the time off, since her mother badly injured her back, her father needed to help his wife, her other older brother has football and college, and her younger brother is in middle school. That is so much pressure to put on one teen girl. Win, unsurprisingly, does not take the injury well. D.J. doesn't know what to do with her taciturn brother, but she turns out to be just the right person to help him, with her slow, quiet, determined Schwenk ways. There is so, so much strength in D.J., and she just does not see it yet, but I'm getting ahead of myself since that's what book three is obviously going to be about. Anyway, Murdock tackles Win's injury in this really powerful, emotional way, and goes into a lot of details about the hospital and physical therapy, and that is just so unique in YA fiction.
The romance remains on the back burner, and goes pretty much exactly where I predicted. Brian Nelson's a great guy in some respects, but much to caught up in the expectations of others. Basically, D.J. did not need all of that to deal with while she was trying to get her brother back on his feet. That's life, though, isn't it. In fact, that's what's so great about this series: how real D.J. feels and the whole cast.
The Final Verdict:
I'm continuing to be really impressed with Murdock's Dairy Queen series. The audiobooks are fabulous, accent and all, and I'm already about a quarter of the way through the final book, which I both do and do not want to finish, because I already think it will be my favorite.
D.J. is a winner in my book
I really liked D.J. Schwenk in Dairy Queen and I like her even better in Off Season. She is such a great character (and what a great name! Its perfect). Honest, true, conflicted, strong, weak&shes a girl Id like to know, though I cant say that we have a lot in common. Unlike D.J., Ive never been good at sports and I definitely have never played football.
In Off Season, D.J. is in eleventh grade. She and her best friend Amber are reconnection after a bit of a rough patch the year before (well, what do you do when you find out your best girl friend likes you a little more than you expected?) and she and Brian seem to be heading into becoming a real couple.
But are they really? Why wont Brian even talk to her in front of his other friends? Sure, theyve shared a few hot kisses, but thats about it. But soon, Brian is the least of D. J.s worries.
She gets injured while playing football and has to decide whether or not to keep playing, which might cause her to have to give up basketball (her best chance at a scholarship to college). And her mother injures her back and cant do anything around the house, leaving D. J. even more in charge than normal.
But then something really bad happens in her family; a true catastrophe and D. J. is the one that winds us shouldering most of the burden. She has to really grow up in a short amount of time because everyone else is depending on her.
This book is definitely a bit heavier than the first one, as serious problems beset D.J. on every side. But she really proves her mettle once again (and you thought she was a heroine for standing her ground and playing football with the boys in the last book!). I recommend this one for readers aged 12 and up. While the main character is a girl, I think boys could also appreciate this one (after all, theres lots of sports talk). And I really recommend it for any teen going through serious family issues they can see that they arent alone.
The Off Season
I loved this book I really don’t know where to start with this review. Because I loved Dairy Queen (especially after a re-read), but I freaking love The Off Season—I love it so much that, really, words fail me. Everything that was present and wonderful in Murdock’s first novel is back again in this installment, only, if possible, even better.
At the beginning of the novel, D.J. has everything going for her. She’s on great terms with her best friend Amber and Amber’s girlfriend, Dale (who, by the way, it totally cool). She’s an accepted and valuable member of the football team. She’s forged a sort-of relationship with rival quarterback Brian. Her family is communicating a little better than before. All around, things are looking up.
But then everything—literally everything—slides into a disaster-zone, and D.J. is left picking up the pieces and doing the best she can to do the right thing. And it’s tough, since the only person she can really rely on is herself. Watching D.J. react and respond under a mountain of bad situations was amazing, since I think Murdock did a great job in working on the character’s pre-existing development and growing from there. D.J. truly learns from her mistakes and evolves as a person, and over the course of two books I’ve come to really admire and respect who she is as a person. She’s such a great character, and that was really highlighted for me in The Off Season.
Honestly, this book comes down to characters and how magnificently they interact with one another and how flawed and authentic they are. D.J. and her family aren’t perfect. Love interest Brian is definitely not perfect. Amber, a gay teen in a small, rural town, is faced with issues that are nothing to sneeze at. And because of their problems—internal and external—these people are so heartwarmingly real that I couldn’t help but love them. If they were not who they are, this novel would not have a story. I think this series is one of the most solid examples of character-driven storytelling I’ve seen. The progression of the plot is completely reliant on the characters’ personalities and choices.
I loved this book. Obviously. The Off Season is a heartbreaking, charming, honest novel about living in a small town and being yourself. It’s about helping other people even when you don’t want to, and it’s about letting go when it’s time to do that. I think it’s a safe bet that there’s not a novel about dairy farmers that nearly as poignant as this one.
Reader reviewed by Mairi
Football season started well for Red Bend, as they defeated Hawley for the first time in four years- a victory in which D.J. Schwenk played no small part. In the halls on the first day of school, people are lining up to congratulate her- she's the first female player to ever score in a game in northern Wisconsin, and this embarrasses her no end- however, it's only the start of her problems. Her relationship with her friend Amber is strained, she doesn't know what to make of Brian, and there is a possibility that her family might lose their farm.
It's been years since I read Dairy Queen (I bought it right after it came out) so I'm rather embarassed to say that I only read The Off Season last week. I loved it, though, even more than the prequel- D.J.'s voice comes through much more clearly in this one, and some of the lines made me laugh out loud. I've been recommending it to everyone I know.
So, in conclusion, you should really read this book because it'll make you smile, and what more can you ask for in a story?
Just as good as the sequel!
Reader reviewed by Chantele
The Off Season is the sequel to "Dairy Queen". It continues with D.J.'s
life of football, her friend Brian, the farm, her best friend Amber,
and her family. The book starts out where Dairy Queen left off.
Everything is going D.J.'s way, and she is very happy with her life for
once. She has a great "boyfriend", she is starting on her football
team, getting alright grades, and even the farm work doesn't seem so
bad. Soon after the school year starts though, things start to change.
D.J's world comes crashing down. Her family has struggles with the
farm, and with each other. Amber isn't getting along with her mother,
and is ready to leave town, and Brian is also acting, well, different.
loved the changes in D.J. throughout this book. She learns to speak her
mind, she grows up a lot, takes charge of her life, and helps her
family through some difficult situations. I loved how she figured out
what was important in her life, and chose the path that would make her
happy, and her family as well. This is a great sequel, and if you loved
Dairy Queen, you will love this one as well. I can't wait to read the
Ehh. So, so.
Reader reviewed by Katie
This book picks up where Dairy Queen leaves off. DJ Schwenk is working toward her goal of playing football for the high school football team. I really didn't like this book as much as I liked Dairy Queen. But, I mean, measuring up to what I thought of Dairy Queen would be hard. Catherine Gilbert Murdock uses the same voice she did in Dairy Queen to make it so appealing, but I honestly liked the Dairy Queen better.
I don't know if it was a lack of a good story line, because it was definitely adventure packed, but it was just the time she was having with Brian was sooo cute that you couldn't help loving it. I also loved the way Dairy Queen ended, and in my opinion, the way you end a book can make or break it.
Sequels Tops the Stellar Debut
Reader reviewed by Stephanie
As far as debut novels go, it's hard to top Murdock's DAIRY QUEEN, a winning combination of wit and heart, love and loss. But incredibly, she succeeds with its sequel, THE OFF SEASON. It is everything her first book is, and more.
As quite possibly the first girl in her state ever to be on her high school football team, D.J. Schwenk has been getting a lot of attention and publicity lately, and she doesn't want any of it... particularly as she fears it will make her something-or-other friendship/relationship with Brian Nelson, her rival high school's star quarterback, even more confusing than it already is. But D.J. never has to go looking for publicity and problems; they come to her. More than ever, she is worried about the future of the Schwenk farm, a dilapidated, outdated relic from the past. Her youngest brother, Curtis, has been mysteriously running off with some girl.
Things only get worse when a bad shoulder injury forces her to quit the football team, going from Most Intriguing Girl in Town to Most Despised. D.J. has no time to wallow in self-pity, however, for not long after that her brother Win is badly injured in a football game and has lost his will to live as a cripple. With all of these issues that SHE has to deal with, it's no wonder she has no time for schoolwork, friendships, and even Brian. D.J. may be forced to grow up faster than she wants, but maybe some good will come out of it all in the end.
In THE OFF SEASON, Murdock continues her beloved heroine's story, throwing more hardships her way. The amount D.J. has to deal with may seem like a rural soap opera sometime, but nevertheless D.J. prevails, and so does our admiration and envy of her. She is the best friend you always wish you could have.
Reader reviewed by abscae
D.J. Schwenk is back with being a junior in her high school, and she's on the football team. However, a chain of events explode, starting off with the publishing of an article concerning her and Brian (the rival school quarterback) in People. Next comes a shoulder injury as well as her gay best friend running off with a friend. Finally, as the tension unfolds, D.J.'s older brother Win gains a spinal cord injury from football. As Win recovers, D.J. stays constantly by his side, putting her life into perspective.
I really liked this book, because along with the usual teenage problems that any teen could relate to, we also feel the pulsing tension of D.J.'s life, and how and when everything gets thrown out of what. The mood becomes clear, pulling the reader in, and leaves them amazed at the maturity of the novel.