Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The first half of D.J. Schwenk's junior year found her one, playing linebacker for her high school football team, two, featured in a People magazine article, and three, caring for her brother Win after he suffered a career-ending injury during one of his nationally televised college football games. For the past five months D.J. has lived and breathed in the spotlight of her small town and it's the last place she ever wanted to be.

Thankfully, D.J. couldn't be happier with the prospect of basketball season just around the corner - a chance to lie low and simply play the game she loves - but it seems like everyone has expectations and plans in store for our hometown hero. Again. Her coach wants her to step up her game, Win wants her to start calling college coaches (like right now), and a certain Hawley quarterback keeps popping up (who she has forgotten all about, thank-you-very-much). The pressure is on and D.J. can't fathom how she will be able to handle it all.

Opening the pages of Front and Center was like sitting down with an old friend that you haven't seen in ages (Hi Kris!) but every time that you do, it feels like no time has passed at all since you were last together. You know their past and their sensitive spots and no matter what, you know you are in for a good time. I'd like to think D.J. Schwenk and I are such friends. She practically leaps off the pages in Catherine Gilbert Murdock's trilogy about a teenage farm girl who dares to play football and wows everyone (including some Division I school coaches) with her mad b-ball skills. Simply irresistible as a shy, talented teenager who hasn't quite figured out how to come out of her shell, D.J. is one of those honest girls who you can't help but cheer for.

No weak or filler characters are present in D.J.'s honest narrative. Even minor characters like her hilarious younger brother Curtis - who probably has only 10-12 lines in the entire book - feel completely real and present. From her neurotic, sports-crazed family to her best friend Amber, each one brought something special to D.J.'s story, each one giving just a bit of themselves as they help her find her way.

I also adore the fact that D.J. is so totally, completely focused on basketball and just surviving school that she has no clue whatsoever when it comes to music or movies or heck, let me go out on a limb here and just say, current events even. They Might be Giants, Elvis - every music reference goes right over that girls' head and she couldn't care less. I just love her to pieces and couldn't be happier with Murdock's conclusion to such a perfect trilogy.

series reading order:
~ Dairy Queen
~ The Off Season
~ Front and Center

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Book Aunt review
Em's Bookshelf review
Kidliterate review
Steph Su Reads review
The Story Siren review

book source: my local library

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