“The Off Season” by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Off SeasonD.J. Schwenk is back for the follow-up novel to “Dairy Queen.

D.J. is just your typical high school rising junior in a small town…well, except for one small thing.  She plays on her high school football team.  As the season begins. D.J. is a starting defensive star and dating the quarterback of the crosstown rival.  At least, he’s coming by her farm and they’re doing a lot of kissing.  The boy in question seems to deny that he knows D.J. whenever they encounter each other outside of her farm, though they do talk on the phone nightly and spend some time together.

Meanwhile, D.J. is concerned about helping her father keep the family farm going and overhears some conversations about how tight things are for her family.

“The Off Season” deftly balances some serious topics along with some amusing moments.  While D.J. is clearly caught up in her own personal drama (a reporter from “People” comes by to interview her and she lets slip about her relationship with the star QB), there are also some other more serious threads in the book.  The story takes a serious turn in the later stages when D.J.’s college age brother is injured in a football game and D.J. is forced to travel and help take care of him.

Told from the first-person perspective, Catherine Murdock succeeds in making D.J. an interesting, sympathetic and believable character.  We hear her frustrations with herself, see her giddy doting on her boyfriend and watch as she struggles to make the choices that are best for she and her family.

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