As you may recall, I had nothing but good things to say about Dairy Queen, so I was very excited to read the sequel.
I actually listened to The Off Season, and for the first two CD's or so, I was a little bit bored -- DJ just kept whining about her family and school and Amber and Brian and I just wanted her to get over it.
But then, something tragic happens (and I'm not going to tell you what*), and the plot completely changes, and I literally couldn't stop listening. Seriously, I was sitting in my car, crying, in the parking lot of the mall.
In that moment, DJ becomes a completely different person. She stops whining, and she shows a remarkable amount of strength. And the novel, for lack of a better phrase, suddenly has a point. There is suddenly something that needs to be resolved, and this drives the novel to its heartwarming conclusion (which did induce more car-crying).
I did have two small issues with the novel, however:
One, while I enjoyed listening to the novel, the reader's Minnesota/Wisconsin accent was just a bit too strong at times, and was rather distracting. But once the story picked up, I really didn't notice.
Two, at one point in the novel (this will be a bit of a spoiler, so feel free to stop reading), DJ has to decide whether or not to continue playing football. Staying on the team would mean risking her shoulder, which might mean she wouldn't be able to play basketball. She needs to play basketball so that college scouts will see her and offer her a scholarship. And, because of her family's financial problems, the only way she will be able to go to college is if she gets a scholarship.
My problem with this... is the fact that this simply isn't true. There are so many other ways to pay for college, grants, student loans, work-study programs, etc. Personally, my own undergrad tuition was split 4 ways. Each of my parents paid a fourth, I had a need-based grant that paid about a fourth, and my student loan (which I'm currently paying off) covered the rest. And while even that scenario might be difficult for DJ and family, there is still the work-study option (or even the going-to-school-part-time-while-working option).
And while this doesn't detract from the novel that much, it frustrates me, because I want the teen readers to know that a sports scholarship isn't their only option for going to college. (Because seriously, how many people are as good at sports as DJ?)
But still, overall, The Off-Season was a thought-provoking and enjoyable novel, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Dairy Queen.
Also, definitely check out K.T. Horning's review over on Worth the Trip (a new blog about GLBT teen lit). This review mainly discusses one of the side-plots, Amber's relationship with her older girlfriend Dale.
*If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that in my personal philosophy, novels are a lot more enjoyable if you have no idea what's going to happen. But if you're really curious, I'm sure a quick Amazon search will tell you what that something is.