Audiobook Review: Front and Center

Audiobook Review: Front and CenterFront and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Narrator: Natalie Moore
Length: 5 hrs, 58 mins
Series: Dairy Queen #3
Published by Listening Library on February 9, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible

After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I'm always in the background—it's a family joke, actually, that us Schwenk kids could go to school naked on picture day, we're all so crazy tall. But I mean I was returning to the background of life. Where no one would really notice me or talk about me or even talk to me much except to say things like "Nice shot," and I could just hang out without too many worries at all.

But it turns out other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who's keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is done with, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway...

What's going to happen if she lets these people down? What's going to happen when she does? Because let's face it: there's no way, on the court or off, that awkward, tongue-tied D.J. Schwenk can manage all this attention. No way at all. Not without a brain transplant. Not without breaking her heart.

You know what? I think this one is my favorite of the trilogy. Only with Front and Center does D.J. really come of age. She does her growing up and embraces herself and generally comes to recognize her own awesomeness. Murdock continues to tackle tough issues in a real life way, and again focuses on parts of life you don’t see too much in young adult fiction.

The primary issue for junior D.J. Schwenk is college. Apparently, colleges start recruiting and offering sports scholarships during the junior year of high school, which is intense. D.J. certainly thinks so and can’t really handle it. The scholarship business really looked at the way academics are ignored in the favor of obtaining a gifted athlete, which even D.J. thinks is a screwed up system, as she is offered a full ride to a school that a senior with straight A’s is rejected from. Ultimately, Murdock doesn’t condemn the practice or anything, just points that out for the reader’s own thoughts to take over. Plus, there aren’t many YA novels about the experience of choosing a college from SAT stress to college visits, and that’s a huge part of high school for those who do plan to go to college.

Most people would be thrilled to receive full ride scholarships, especially if they can’t afford to leave their parents’ farm otherwise. Not D.J., though. She does want to get out of Red Bend, but she doesn’t think she’s good enough. Plus, she visited a D1 school and watched a girl lose the game for her team, and D.J.’s convinced she can’t handle the pressure. She wants to go D3, to a tiny school where she can be the big fish in a small pond. Of course, I went to a small school myself, and that’s not wrong in and of itself, but D.J.’s motivation is wrong: fear.

Actually, D.J. not believing herself good enough for what she actually wants is the main theme of Front and Center. On top of college ball, she insists she does not have the skills to be point guard, though it’s obvious to everyone that she does, if she would just open her mouth. In romance, too, D.J. settles for a guy she likes less, because she doesn’t think she’s good enough for the guy she’s actually really into. Through Front and Center, D.J. comes into her own and realizes how much she can handle and how many good things she deserves. After three books, it’s great to watch confidence blooming in D.J..

The romance component does take up more plot space in Front and Center, and, not gonna lie, that was a big inducement. Of course, the romance still doesn’t dominate everything else. D.J. gets herself a love triangle, but a mostly non-obnoxious one. Convinced that Brian Nelson will never be able to publicly admit that he likes her, she prepares to be single, good riddance to romance. Then one of her best guy friends tells her he likes her, and she goes for it, because friends with crushes on you can be confusing. D.J. takes a long time to really look into her heart for what she actually wants, pretty much as worried about the opinions of others as Brian Nelson, though she doesn’t realize. Introspection doesn’t come all that naturally to D.J., who’s more of a doer than a thinker, so all of this throws her for a real loop.

Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen series is a must read (or listen) for readers looking for more from YA fiction, YA that touches on family, college, LGBT issues, sports and more, not just romance. Having finished the series, D.J. and her family and friends feel so real to me, and I can’t believe I have to leave them behind now. If Murdock were to write a series about D.J. in college, I wouldn’t complain.

5 responses to “Audiobook Review: Front and Center”

  1. I have only read Dairy Queen but reading this I am not having heart palpitations and am scared DJ and Brian Nelson, my OTP, will not get together. WAHHH.

    I think that means I need to obtain the next two on audio.

    I swear, you are such a pusher EVEN WHEN YOU ARE NOT TRYING. Off to audible, byeeeee!
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Raven Flight | Juliet Marillier | Book ReviewMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hurrah! You must read to find about your OTP. My lips are sealed. MWAHAHA.

      Also, I am totally trying to be a pusher most of the time. So. Good for me. But, seriously, the whole series is brilliant on audio, so you will not regret this choice.

  2. Nafiza says:

    I loved this series. I don’t know what Murdock is working on right now but I hope she writes more contemporaries. Oh yes, her princess novels – I wasn’t as big a fan of those.
    Nafiza recently posted…A Question of the Utmost ImportanceMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      She wrote another book with cows on the cover that looks more like a middle grade, but I don’t think it’s about DJ. I think that’s the only thing she’s done since Wisdom’s Kiss.

  3. Although I only gave Front and Center four stars myself, I totally get your justification in giving it 5 stars. I enjoyed everything you brought up in your review myself. DJ does grow tremendously in this book, and she definitely does spend most of the time figuring out if she thinks she’s good enough for things. The romance bothered me a little, but I do understand it in the context of things.
    And I know, right? Murdock really should get on writing a few books about DJ’s college years. I would totally read them!
    Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books recently posted…Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin TerrillMy Profile

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