Review of “Front and Center” by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Book Three of “The Dairy Queen” series picks up shortly after the end of the second book in this trilogy. D.J. (for Darlene Joyce) Schwenk, 16 now, is six feet tall, athletic, funny, and the charming narrator of this trilogy about her “coming of age” in Red Bend, Wisconsin. D.J. was playing football for her high school for a while, but had to give it up after an injury; now she is concentrating on becoming a better basketball player so she can get a scholarship to college. She also remains fixated on Brian Nelson, the quarterback of Red Bend’s main rival, Hawley, and someone who seemed to like her, but only when his friends couldn’t see he was with her instead of someone “cooler.” She decides she deserves better.


She starts going out with a boy she has always considered a friend, “Beaner” Halstaad, but she just doesn’t feel that “spark” she felt with Brian. And of course, that’s not her only problem. In order to excel at basketball, she has to exhibit leadership skills, which means speaking out and being assertive, something the shy D.J. has always avoided. In fact, the very idea frightens her enough that she wants to avoid the better teams of Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), just so she can stay in the background.

D.J. has to figure out if she can overcome her fears to become all that she can be, and decide on the best way to deal with her conflicted feelings about the boys in her life. Those of us who have been following D.J.’s progress since Book One of this appealing series know she will figure out a way; the fun is going through the process with her.

Evaluation: Book Three of this charming coming-of-age series is mostly wrapping up the issues presented in the previous books. But overall, this series has a lot of positive aspects and is full of humor. The protagonist is comfortable with her “non-size zero” body and learns to capitalize on her other assets at well. I strongly recommend this series for girls who don’t fit into the usual mold of “the popular set” in high school.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2009

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4 Responses to Review of “Front and Center” by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

  1. I’m so glad to see YA books swinging back to contemporary issues like this. I think I’d love this series.

  2. Care says:

    You’ve charmed me into considering these! They look fun.

  3. Rachel says:

    This looks like a good one. The cover is creeping me out though – she’s go Mona Lisa eyes and they are following me!

  4. SDCB Steph says:

    This is the first time I am seeing this series. I will have to look into the first in series. Thank you for the lovely balanced review.

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