DJ Schwenk returns in Catherine Murdock’s conclusion to the Dairy Queen trilogy, Front and Center. After receiving more attention than she ever desired during football season, DJ looks forward to returning to basketball and her life in the background. It turns out, though, that fading into the background isn’t going to be possible for her. From college basketball scouts to her paralyzed brother to her best guy friend, DJ is getting just as much attention as before, and she certainly doesn’t want it all. And of course, DJ can’t seem to get her ex, Brian Nelson, out of her mind. In this final novel, DJ faces challenges on the basketball court and at home, learning how to build self-confidence, front and center.
Though not as exciting as Dairy Queen or The Off Season, Catherine Murdock brings DJ’s story to a close in this strong, well-written conclusion to the trilogy. Like the other DJ novels, Front and Center captures the reader’s attention through DJ’s down-to-earth voice. Though told from the perspective of a female, teens of both genders will appreciate DJ’s honesty and wit. At the same time, Front and Center will gain the approval of any parent with its mild language and DJ’s moral dilemmas.
Catherine Murdock addresses the fears and concerns of any high school student through DJ and her struggles. While DJ’s personal situation is unique, her feelings and emotions are not, and these will resonate with young adult readers. Murdock develops a cast of characters, each with their own flaws, to surround DJ, and while some of these players lack depth, they are all realistic and needed to complete DJ’s world. All in all, Front and Center by Catherine Murdock is a satisfying conclusion to the Dairy Queen trilogy with a message that lasts long after you’ve read the last page. By emphasizing the importance of family, friendship, and support, all of which are sometimes overlooked in young adult literature, this book will motivate its reader to reach out and take risks. 8 out of 10.