Now that her dad has had hip surgery, he's back at work on the family dairy farm. Although the farm is still losing money, he is relentless in his determination to figure out some new business gimmick to turn things around. D. J.'s two older brothers are off playing football for Big Ten college teams, and her little brother has himself a girlfriend and might be acting just a bit more normal than usual. Her mother is busy as an elementary school principal and bossing everyone around at home.
The highlight of the fall is the fact that D. J. has a boyfriend for the first time in her life. Brian, the football player who worked with her on the farm the summer before, is becoming more than just a friend. A quick, impromptu road trip ends up including a roadside rest stop that involves some pretty serious kissing. Since then the two have spent as much time together as two busy football players playing for rival teams can possibly manage. D. J.'s every waking moment is spent thinking about Brian and football.
The positive events of fall begin to crumble when D. J.'s mom hurts her back. Who knew that yelling at your youngest son for sneaking around with his girlfriend could cause a slipped disk? With her mom flat on her back on the living room floor, D. J. suddenly has more responsibility than she ever thought possible.
Bad things continue to happen - there are problems with her relationship with Brian, her best friend Amber has had it with school and arguments with her mom, and a tragedy at a college football game changes her brother Win's life forever.
Author Catherine Gilbert Murdock's first novel featuring D. J. Schwenk was DAIRY QUEEN. She follows that up with THE OFF SEASON which includes the same great characters, sports inspired determination, and refreshing humor as her first book. The challenges she creates for her characters and the way she has them handle them illustrate remarkable courage and resilience. Now I'm off to read FRONT AND CENTER, her third book about D. J. Schwenk, due for release in October.