Front and Center
After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I’m always in the background—it’s a family joke, actually, that us Schwenk kids could go to school naked on picture day, we’re all so crazy tall. But I mean I was returning to the background of life. Where no one would really notice me or talk about me or even talk to me much except to say things like “nice shot,” and I could just hang out without too many worries at all.
But, it turns out, other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who’s keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is DONE WITH, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway . . .
What’s going to happen if she lets these people down? What’s going to happen when she does? Because let’s face it: there’s no way, on court or off, that awkward, tongue-tied D.J. Schwenk can manage all this attention. No way at all. Not without a brain transplant. Not without breaking her heart.
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A handful of reviews
“A worthy send-off for a one-of-a-kind character.” Hornbook
“My favorite D.J. Schwenk novel yet.” Em’s bookshelf
“What Romeo and Juliet's life would be like if they actually had a life.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[D.J.’s] self-deprecating and humorous voice is still as fresh the third time around.” Booklist
“I loved it. Not only that, but I needed it! I needed a reminder that courageous people are actually scared to death, and that we shouldn't let fear make our decisions! . . . And as always, it was HYSTERICALLY laugh-out-loud funny. And inspiring. I loved it.” Kristin Cashore
Questions from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Front and Center is the third and final book in the series about D.J. Schwenk and her family. Did you find it difficult to say goodbye to this cast of characters?
Yes and no. I miss them, but we spent almost six years together, and it’s time for all of us to make some new friends. D.J. is so grown up—far more grown up than I was, or am, or will ever be—and it’s nice to imagine her off on her own, making the world a better place.
Why did you write a third book about D.J.? Are you sure her story is over?
I never meant to write a third book, just as I’d never meant to write a second. But no one wanted the story to end! And I had some questions I needed to answer.
In Front and Center, D.J. deals with the college basketball recruiting process and you describe her feelings of angst and indecision so well. How do you know so much about this process?
While researching The Off Season, I’d inadvertently come across a great deal about college sports recruiting. As a total non-athlete, I’d always viewed sports recruiting as a Get Out of Jail Free card. But of course the reality is far different. One college coach told me, in so many words, “The system is completely out of control.” I had no idea of this all when I began Front and Center. It was great fun getting to know college and high school coaches, picking their brains. D.J. has spent her whole life feeling like an outsider and a bit of a loser, in the sense that she’s never felt like a winner. In Front and Center she’s forced to confront the truth that winning isn’t any easier than losing is.
How do you spend your time when you aren’t writing?
Oh, I’m such a skilled procrastinator. I could write a book about it . . . or not. We’ve been renovating this house since about 1908, it feels like, and now the stuff we renovated needs renovating. So that’s a day job. Also I am a fanatical (and not in a positive sense) gardener. We moved into a house with pure lawn, and I’ve spent the past six years attempting to return it to swampy forest. I also enjoy cooking, which anyone who reads Princess Ben can probably guess, and I kill loads of time doing that.
Interview posted on the blog See Michelle Read >>
Interview posted on JoelleAnthony.com >>
Questions for readers
• At the end of Chapter One, D.J. declares that “front and center sucks.” What does she mean, exactly? How does this sentiment fit into the book as a whole?
• What’s the biggest challenge D.J. faces in Front and Center? What did you think it was going to be?
• Dale and Curtis are my two favorite characters in the series. Who are yours?
• How do the issues and problems that D.J. faces in Front and Center compare to those in Dairy Queen and The Off Season?
• In Front and Center, The Off Season and Dairy Queen, D.J. each time writes to a specific recipient — to an audience of one, if you will. How does this structure affect the books, and the reading experience?
What’s the moral of Front and Center? Of the Dairy Queen series?