I read this because I kept seeing it on lists like “Favorite Teen Read,” “Teen Recommended,” “ALA Best Books for Young Adults,” etc. And it also had many blurbs saying, in essence, “I loved this book.” And unsurprisingly, I loved it as well.
D.J. (for Darlene Joyce) Schwenk is 15 when the book begins, and she has taken over most of the chores at her family’s farm in Red Bend, Wisconsin, because her older brothers have left home, her mom is working two jobs, and her dad got injured. She has one other brother, but he’s 13, and in any event is in a summer softball league.
D.J.’s dad used to be a football coach for the rival team at Hawley High, where his best friend Jimmy Ott still does the coaching. Jimmy sends his quarterback, Brian Nelson, over to help out at the farm, but Brian thinks the work is too hard, and quits after one day. He only comes back when D.J. agrees to be his personal trainer to help him prepare for the upcoming football season.
The trouble starts, however, when D.J. decides she too wants to play football, for her home team of Red Bend, which is the main rival of Hawley. She doesn’t tell Brian though, because the Schwenk’s aren’t very good at communicating.
Sounds fairly standard, but the character of D.J. is outstanding. She considers herself “poor, stupid, and ugly and just not cool at all” but of course she is none of those things, except poor (but only in terms of money). She’s hilariously funny, smart, courageous, and full of insight about herself and others. As one example evincing all of the above, she talks about how she and her BFF Amber watch the movie “Blue Crush” over and over. She explains:
“It’s a movie about three girls who are a lot like us except they live in Hawaii and don’t have any parents and they date professional football players and surf all the time. And they’re thin. So you can see that the similarities are overwhelming.”
Evaluation: I laughed out loud often while reading this charming coming-of-age story. The author has written some follow-up books and I can’t wait to read them.
Published by Graphia, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006