The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 5, 2010

Jeana Gockley, Book review: Book captures pressures placed on teen

By Jeana Gockley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — ‘Front and Center’

 By Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Young Adult

Wisconsin high school junior D.J. Schwenk is back at school after a prolonged break, during which she was helping her injured pro football player brother, Win, with his rehabilitation. Self-conscious D.J. is happy to be back at school and even happier to be playing basketball again, though she longs to blend into the background.

However, that is not to be, as her coach, family and friends all have other plans for her.

Much of the book centers on basketball, and readers will gain insight into the world of college recruitment. D.J. feels pressure from her coach as he encourages her to step up her leadership skills on the basketball court so that she will be offered a scholarship.

However, after seeing an especially intense Division I game, she decides to consider other options -- much to the dismay of her friends, family and the entire Red Bend community.

D.J.’s love life is far from calm, as ex-boyfriend Brian Nelson re-enters her life. But she is already dating Beaner, a fun-loving, attention-seeking friend who, unlike Brian, is not embarrassed to seen in public with her.

D.J. is a superb narrator with whom teen readers will be able to identify. Fans will enjoy additional storylines and the development of an already-interesting character, but those new to the series should definitely read Gilbert’s previous two books, “Dairy Queen” and “The Off Season,” to get the most out of this engaging series.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at the Joplin Public Library.