Author: Julie Murphy
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Received: At BEA for Review
Published September 15th 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
Julie Murphy perfectly captured the awkwardness of the teenage experience. Willowdean’s voice sucked me into the story from the beginning. I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love with this beautiful story that Julie Murphy crafted. I don’t think you can read this book without feeling compelling to listen to some Dolly Parton, like Willowdean Jolene is my favorite as well. Dumplin’ is a breath of fresh air in contemporary YA romance, and yet it remains angsty, swoony, and heartwarming like you expect from the genre.
Murphy works with the love triangle, dreaded by many but not me in particular, in a way that gives much more power to Willowdean and was genuinely conflicting. Oh, Bo, I couldn’t help but ship this even though I knew you weren’t always the greatest option.
Willowdean is a curvy girl and ends up becoming friends with other girls who aren’t the stereotypical version of beauty that society dictates. The character development really made this book a stand out. We see so many of these characters come so far, especially Willowdean and her mother. None of these characters were perfect. Ellen and Willowdean’s relationship is one that feels so realistic and as a reader I was rooting more for their friendship the the romance.
I think Murphy was able to the insecurities that everyone has, even the pretty popular girl doesn’t like something about herself, and being comfortable in your own skin is something to be learned. I think topics that tend to make us comfortable to talk about, like body image, are usually very serious and dark, but they don’t have to be depicted that way. Dumplin’ is funny and heart felt, but does impart a message through Willowdean’s actions.
Dumplin’ is absolutely a must read and deserves as much attention as it can get.