Though I haven't had much chance to reread since I began blogging, it's one of my favorite things to do. Is there anything better than revisiting an old favorite? For me, the benefits are myriad, since I generally can't remember much after just one read of a book, so I can be surprised and delighted just like the first time, implant the book in my memory, and probably also notice awesomeness I'd missed before. Of course, in some cases, I like to reread books that I didn't enjoy before, because they can really surprise you, like Dairy Queen.
I'm fairly certain I've actually read Dairy Queen twice before, once in college and once in grad school. Though I have little memory of it, I have a distinct recollection of having checked out the paperback during a break from undergrad. I don't think I liked it much, and I've only just recalled that. Anyway, in grad school, I had to read Dairy Queen for my young adult services course. I did not care for it.
My issues with Dairy Queen were partly context and partly format. See, I came to Dairy Queen that second time with certain expectations, because we were assigned the book as part of the LGBT unit, which included one other book Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. I was pissed off at this book and at the professors for not choosing a single book with a gay or lesbian protagonist, though the protagonist in Cameron's novel thinks he might be gay. Though there are some LGBT themes in Dairy Queen, it's not an LGBT book overall, and I resented the book for that, even if it wasn't fair.
However, I also remember being unimpressed by the writing style. D.J.'s not the sort of girl to use really complex sentences or have a huge vocabulary. Simple sentences just generally do not work for me as a writing style, so I found the book frustrating. Switching to the audiobook format allowed me to really appreciate how well the writing fits the character of D.J. Natalie Moore does an amazing job bringing the character alive, and has the full on Wisconsin accent, which is incredibly entertaining.
So far as the plot goes, I really remembered nothing, except cows and football, which are certainly the most obvious points. The book being about football probably didn't help us get along any either, but Miranda Kenneally has helped me get over my distaste for anything about sports. The football in the book really isn't overwhelming, definitely taking a back seat to D.J.'s journey for self-respect and interpersonal relations.
D.J. feels dumb and overwhelmed. She flunked sophomore English, because she was so busy running the family farm after her dad injured himself using the manure spreader. D.J. is so young, but she has all of this pressure and her whole family relies on her to keep the farm going. She has to give up all of her sports to run the farm, but her brother Curtis doesn't. The whole thing feels so unfair, but D.J. is a real champ about it.
Then Brian Nelson shows up, sent by the coach of D.J.'s school's rival ream, who happens to be a family friend. The coach wants Brian to help out on the farm and stop being so stuck up, and eventually D.J. begins coaching Brian at football. They also go from hating one another to really getting along, able to talk about things that D.J.'s family never discusses. Her affinity for Brian grows into a crush and also inspires her to confront family issues, like talking to her estranged brothers, engaging with her silent younger brother, and gaining more respect from her parents.
Romance is really kept on the back burner, though it's a thread running through the book. D.J.'s desire for romance sort of comes up against her increasing desire to play football, which both isn't girly and will inevitably lead to complications with her burgeoning feelings for Brian. D.J. also has to deal with the realization that her friend Amber is a lesbian and has sort of been dating D.J., though D.J. had no idea. Up to this summer with Brian, she'd really never given romance a thought and all of this takes her time to process.
Actually, that's one of the best things about Dairy Queen. D.J. really does need time to think through things. She lacks the quick wit of a lot of heroines. Brian confronts her about always forcing him to give more in conversations by remaining silent, and she explains that she was merely trying to work out a response. D.J.'s brain works a bit differently from mine, and it's always interesting to get to be in someone else's head to gain some empathy.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The narrative of the book is purportedly an assignment D.J. turns in to overturn her failure in English, since the teacher lets her make it up. When she explained that at the end, I laughed a lot, because this poor teacher. She asks for a paper on what D.J. did over the summer or something like that, and the girl turns in, instead of ten pages or so, three hundred. Happy grading!
The Final Verdict:
I am so glad that I gave this series another go, because it's so powerful and unique amongst young adult fiction. I'm excited to listen to the audiobooks for the next two books!