Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Novels About Female Athletes

I just read two of the best books ever – Dairy Queen and The Off Season – by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I discovered them one morning stocking shelves at Borders. I want to write sports books for and/or about girls and women, so I always keep an eye out for fiction about female athletes. I borrowed both books from the library and finished them in a week because I couldn’t stop reading.

In the past I’ve been asked what, in my opinion, makes a good book. There are three things I look for in a piece of fiction: a likeable/relatable character, compelling story, and beautifully written prose. It is extraordinarily rare that I find a book that matches all three criteria, so I get very excited when I do. Dairy Queen and its sequel The Off Season both meet up to my standards for excellence in literature.

The narrator, D.J. Schwenk, is a junior in high school who plays football for her high school. She is also a star basketball player and a reluctant volleyball player, as well as a farmer and a trainer. Gotta admire that athleticism. I liked D.J. from the start, but I felt connected to her when she said, (and I paraphrase), “I'm definitely not one of the cool kids but I'm too big for anyone to mess with.” This was exactly how I felt in middle and most of high school.

A few weeks ago I read Swimming by Nicola Keegan, and although I enjoyed Keegan’s prose, I got the distinct feeling that she had never been an athlete in her life. Not that you have to have direct experience with a subject to write about it. But her story didn’t ring true to me. It bothered me enough that I looked up info on Keegan and sure enough, she’d never been an athlete. While reading Murdock’s books I did not once question whether the author was an athlete or not because I completely believed D.J.’s athletic experience. Turns out Murdock did not grow up as an athlete, although she did start competing in triathlons for fun a few years ago.

The good news just keeps getting better. When looking up more info about Murdock, I discovered that earlier this month the third book in the Dairy Queen trilogy was released! I didn’t even know a third book was in question! How exciting! It's called Front and Center. Can’t wait to read it.
Another fun fact about Catherine Gilbert Murdock: her sister is Elizabeth Gilbert, the author Eat, Pray, Love.


Unknown said...

What about the 'Swimming' book was not convincing? I haven't ready it, just curious.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I read Dairy Queen but haven't read the sequel. So many books, so little time.

Emily Bone said...

I'm reading 'Swimming' at the moment too. About half way through so far, and I agree that it lacks a certain authenticity. I do however like the fact that the main character uses swimming as a hypnotic-state stress reliever as I could identify with that.
And I LOVE reading about her training- I'm finding it interesting to learn a bit about the American way of doing things (if the book is in fact true to life).

Anne Greenawalt said...

I'm glad I'm not the only swimmer who felt it lacked a little something!

It's funny you say you like reading it to find out about the American way of training, because I'm pretty sure Keegan is Irish! But she I think she researched American swimming pretty throroughly. So although I think it's a well written book, it reads more like someone who researched swimming than someone who experienced it first hand. But in the end Keegan's book really isn't about competitive swimming, so it doesn't really matter.

Anne Greenawalt said...

Aletha, I just realized that the response I wrote to you isn't showing here - so I don't know if it ever got posted properly or got deleted. Sorry! I wasn't ignoring your question. My response to Emily above sort of answers your question.