If your idea of YA involves vampires it’s time reacquaint yourself with the genre. Julie Murphy, like John Green, appeals to a wide array of ages. This is the third of her books that I’ve read and loved.
The Shamrocks Dance Team are THE thing in Clover City, Texas. Callie is a “legacy” Shamrock poised to compete at Nationals 20 years after her mother’s team won the same contest. Millie is a fat girl. She embraces the word “fat” having given her summers to fat camp until now. Now she wants to go to Broadcast Journalism Camp. To say that these two girls live in different worlds is an understatement. Until a prank lands them together. [Trying not to write spoilers!] Then their worlds colide, change, morph, transform, cynergize, you name it!
What I Loved
Julie Murphy writes absolutely believeable characters. I almost stopped listening–it was too real and my daughter, a one-time high school cheerleader, and her friends seemed to have shown up in this novel. Thankfully, I kept listeneing. I like that parents ARE present, aren’t totally ignored and sometimes even get a listen. I also like that consequences happen, suck and are endured. Most of all I loved seeing the characters grow, discover, test or exceed boundaries, mess-up, try a new approach, a new way of living, evaluation and keep going. These are the kids who were in and out of my house till 3 years ago, right? It sure seemed like it!
Cali and the Shamrocks expose the shallowness, sex and self-centeredness of so much of teen sports culture. But Julie Murphy manages to also show how wrong people can be about that perceived shallowness–just as wrong, in fact, as the jocks could be about the nerds, dorks and fat chicks. High school is right up there with Marine Corps Basic Training in terms of difficulty. Murphy’s deft hand and deeply formed characters let us see just how brutal it can be, but also how sweet it can be when it all works.
Book Club Suggestion
So make a King Ranch Casserole
Here’s the Pioneer Woman’s Recipe. Not sure how similar this is to the one Callie makes for dinner, but it sounds fun doesn’t it?
Dumplin’ and a Rom-Com Suggestion for November or Later:
The film version first book in this series, Dumplin’ will start airing on Netflix in November with Jennifer Aniston as one of the stars. Of course, the music is by Dolly Parton. Who else?
King Ranch Chicken
- Total: 1 hr 15 min
- Active: 15 min
- Yield: 8 to 12 servings
- Level: Easy
- Butter, for the baking dish
- One 10.5-ounce can cream of chicken soup
- One 10.5-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
- One 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles, such as Rotel
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 16 corn tortillas, torn into pieces
- 1 roasted whole chicken (rotisserie chicken works great!), cooled and torn into chunks
- 1 large white or yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 1 jalapeno, finely diced
- 1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
- 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Make the soup/tomato mixture, which is very bizarre and might scare you off. But please: Be brave and stick with me through this challenging time. You won’t be sorry! In a large bowl, combine the soups and diced tomatoes and chiles. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and chicken broth. Then–this is the time to be strong–stir it all together. Trust me!
Line the bottom of the baking dish with half of the torn tortillas. Layer on half the chicken. Add half the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Sprinkle on half the cheese and pour on half the wacky soup mixture. Then repeat the layers, beginning with the rest of the tortillas, and ending with the rest of the you-know-what.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake until bubbling, another 15 minutes.
Look at that! Serve it with a salad and a dang hearty appetite.
To make ahead and freeze: Fold foil over the unbaked casserole and freeze until solid. Then, lift the foil-topped casserole out of the pan, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and freeze until needed. When ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap, put the foiled-topped casserole back into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and thaw. Bake at 350 degrees F following the baking instructions above.
You can access this receipe on the Food Network website here.