Nicola's Reviews > Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
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Feb 06, 11

bookshelves: fiction, teen, sports, bookmooch

Dairy Queen is an easy book to sum up in a nutshell: it’s about a girl who joins the high school (boys’) football team.

Yet nowhere in its back cover blurb does Dairy mention this; instead, it’s full of vague babble about a family learning to communicate with each other. (Snooooze.) What’s more, it takes half the book before protagonist DJ decides that she wants to join the football team. And her first game doesn’t happen till the final 50 pages!

Talk about squandering the potential of your premise.

The controversial issue at the heart of Dairy – the dividing line between men’s and women’s sport – is all but glossed over. Catherine Gilbert Murdock makes some vague attempts to subvert gender roles (DJ’s dad bakes brownies!) and address the lesbian stereotypes attached to female athletes. At best, these attempts felt flimsy; at worst, they caused me to make this face >:/

The romance in Dairy is even less compelling than the sports stuff. DJ is forced to spend time with a rival school’s QB, Brian – at first, she hates him! then she gets to know him! then they fall in love! Well, in theory, anyway. Murdock seems to think that simply putting a male and a female character in a scene together is all it takes to create romance. However, there’s no sexual tension; no subtext; no meaningful looks. The two of them are just… there… together.

I’m actually burying the lead in this review, because the rage-inducing thing about Dairy is not the undeveloped sports or the underwhelming romance. What’s rage-inducing is this:

DAIRY QUEEN IS THE MOST POORLY-WRITTEN NOVEL I’VE EVER READ.

(To pre-empt your question: yes, I thought hard about this and I’m including Twilight in this assessment. Hold the phone: this even more terribly written than Twilight.)

Murdock writes in a “stream-of-consciousness meets chatty email” style that is unevocative and, ultimately, deeply wearing to read. Murdock frames the narrative as a “what I did this summer” report that DJ has to write for her English class – and, boy, based on this writing, I hope she flunks out! Every other sentence begins with “and”, “but” or “so”. Description is nil; nuance nonexistent. Murdock is clearly trying to channel the Modern American Teenager, without realising that you don’t have to write like a 16-year-old to do so.

To sum up: interesting premise; horrible execution.

(Nepotism alert: I’d wager that it’s easy to get your shitty, shitty first novel published if your sister wrote Eat, Pray, Love.)
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