That right there, fellow readers, is one of the freshest plot designs for a YA contemporary I’ve seen in years. Dairy Queen isn’t a fluffy romance, and it’s not a gritty “issue” book. It’s simply a realistic story about a Wisconsin farm girl who decides enough is enough and does what she wants to do. And, cheesy cover art aside, I think Dairy Queen is one of the best straight-up contemporary books I’ve read.
For one, there’s D.J. as a main character. She didn’t descend from the “beautiful and wildly talented” branch of the extended heroine family. She’s extremely down to earth and real, full of attitude, but also flawed. Not everything she does is perfect, but she has an indefinable “hey you!” quality to her narrative that sucked me in and made me fall in love with her.
Then there’s a girl trying out for the football team. Whenever I see something like this attempted, it ends up being very cheesy like She’s the Man (Shakespearean influence aside). But in the case of Dairy Queen, D.J.’s attempt to play football seemed very real, not at all forced, and a scenario that seemed very plausible in a small town/limited athlete pool setting.
And then, of course, there was Brian, the “romantic interest.” Except, of course, there was no romance in this book, which I found extremely refreshing. Yes, D.J. was able to admit that maybe she had a little bit of a crush on Brian, but there were other things going on, and at the end Murdock left things very open. Hence the sequel.
I was, though, a bit disappointed by D.J.’s Ponyboy-ness in the final paragraphs, mostly because I think that style of narration is silly. I didn’t like it in The Outsiders, and I certainly didn’t like it in Dairy Queen.
Dairy Queen is a fresh and realistic look at contemporary fiction. D.J. was a great main character, and her story was likable and quirky. Murdock handled her subject matter well, and the end result was very good.