September 05, 2006

Small Town Bovine

"When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not being said."

It might seem obvious to you, but to D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, it's not that obvious. The truth is, people in D.J.'s life don't seem to know how to talk. Not her parents, both of whom are struggling with their own particular issues, not her football-star brothers, who have left the farm without saying a word except to ask D.J. whose side she's on; not her little brother, who barely talks at all, nor D.J. herself, who, when she finds out her best friend Amber thought the two of them were dating can't even bring herself to talk that out.

There's a whole lot of silence going on in Dairy Queen, and sometimes silence leads to miscommunication to readers. After reading this book, I found myself with a lot of questions that aren't answered. For instance, why does D.J.'s mother, who is named as the family peace-keeper, say there isn't much for her at home anymore? Does she mean that now that her quarreling sons are gone, she can immerse herself in her work? And why is only one brother mentioned, Bill? Does no one mind that there is no reunion with the other one? When Amber introduces her new friend, is D.J. correct in assuming that the now-happy Amber found herself a girlfriend, or just a new friend who was better at communication? Also, some of the psychology seems a bit convenient, as it's from a handy boy-interest whose mother is a psychologist; I find myself wishing that D.J. had figured out some of her own issues without the second-hand source, or else that she had actively sought some solution to her family's issues instead of having a bystander just feed her lines.

At any rate, this novel has a lot about football, and a lot about small Midwestern towns, both of which may connect better with some people than others. It's a quick moving story that tells about silent resentment building up, a fear of doing what's expected of you, and one girl's unexpected breakout, and her determination to learn to communicate, 'Oprah-like.'

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