Hallie's Reviews > Front and Center

Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
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Oct 14, 09

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Read in October, 2009

I was a little disappointed in this outing in the D.J. life-story, although it was great in many ways.

It takes up with D.J. back in school, looking forward to slipping back into relative invisibility again, which of course is not about to happen. Everyone in school and the town wants to know about Win, her pal Beaner announces his romantic interest loudly and publicly, and the basketball coach keeps pushing D.J. to show leadership during games. And Brian (remember him?) pops up again, interested in convincing D.J. he's changed and to give him another try. And that's all before university coaches start contacting her about basketball scholarships. Pushing her into contacting them back gives Win a new project, and he throws everything into it, not worrying how much D.J. says she doesn't want to play in a Top Ten team.

All good, so what disappointed? First, I didn't like D.J.'s drifting into couplehood with Beaner when she was not over Brian. It happens, but the book puts a lot of effort into showing what a great guy Beaner was, and I got impatient with D.J.'s inability to speak up leading her to hurt him. (And then the book gave her an easy out afterwards, which I really didn't like.)

Second, in this one the unfairness of sports scholarships was brought up, with someone who was bright, had good grades, and was trying to do extra-curricular stuff to improve her chances of getting into a university, NOT getting a scholarship, while D.J. (not the brightest student, as she says herself) was being offered them on all sides. What's a university for? But though I liked this, again it seemed to me that there was an easy out, with the character getting an offer which was going to work for her, and that kind of diluted the protest.

Third, and this was a small moment, but still - as I said, Beaner was written as a really, really good guy - good friend, funny as anything, accepting, appreciating D.J. and not at all threatened by her sports skills. And then at a pep rally he dressed up as a member of the girls' basketball team and went out with wig and false boobs, and everyone thought it was the funniest thing ever. Statistically, there was bound to be at least one or two transgender or transsexual kids in that school, but there doesn't ever seem to be any awareness that it's not okay to use trans behaviour as a big old joke. If he'd pretended to be gay in front of most of the school it wouldn't be seen as acceptable at all, but this is fine. That insensitivity really left a bad taste in my mouth.

There was much to love as well, and D.J.'s family relationships were as good as ever. Other people seem to have heard that this is the last D.J. story, and I'll be watching eagerly to see what Murdock writes next. NOT a return to fantasy if it's like Princess Ben, though, PLEASE.
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