TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Ok, so you see how much I loved "Dairy Queen," and, because of that, I was incredibly excited to read "The Off Season." Now that I've finished it? Eh. It's not bad, but it certainly didn't live up to either my expectations or the high standard set by the first book.
In this one, the story begins mere days after the events of "Dairy Queen," meaning the big Hawley / Red Bend scrimmage just happened. You would think all the excitement and triumph of that game would carry over into "The Off Season," starting the book off with a spark, but that's not at all the case. Instead, D.J. is just as unsure as ever about Brian Nelson — hello, what happened to all the great progress they made in the last book? — and she's anxious about starting school. Where "Dairy Queen" really focused on D.J.'s work on the farm and all her sacrifices for her family, this one barely mentions farm work. Again, what gives?
I won't give away the entire plot of this book, other to say that it doesn't involve D.J. playing much football herself. Which is a shame, because in the first book, it was such a big deal for D.J. to find the courage and drive to even go out for the team in the first place. It's like she did all that for nothing, which is a big letdown for the reader. And Brian? Don't even get me started on Brian. While there are a few nice scenes between the two, most of D.J.'s interactions with Brian are via cell phone, which sort of undermines the dramatic tension and makes him, at best, an outsider to the story's plot. That plot, by the way, revolves very heavily around D.J.'s oldest brother Win and a catastrophic injury he suffers in a college football game.
As you can tell, I'm not all that enthused by "The Off Season." There are some nice moments, mostly with D.J.'s silent younger brother Curtis and her struggling older brother Win, but the book as a whole feels muddled. While "Dairy Queen" told a distinct story about a very important summer in one farm girl's life, "The Off Season" feels like it's going off in too many directions at once, and they're not all that successful. Is it a romance, a coming-of-age, an inspirational story of triumphing over adversity, a sports tale, a high school drama, or a book about prejudice? For me, "The Off Season" tried to be all these things at once, and failed badly.
I assume they'll be another novel in this series, since D.J. is gearing up for basketball season and dreaming of college at the end of the story. If you read the first book, I'm sure you'll want to read this one and find out what happens to D.J. You may be disappointed as I was, but curiosity will likely get the better of you. I'd say this one has the same target audience as the first, maybe a smidge older. I can only hope you enjoy it more than I did.