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.
I have come across very few books in YA where the main protagonist struggles with her weight and is actually fat. Sure, I’ve read books about anorexia and girls who have eating disorders (see Paperweight, a fantastic but dark read), but Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is something entirely different. Dumplin’ is smart, realistic, and entirely charismatic. What really hit it home for me is of course, Willowdean, whom I’ll spend most of the review talking about.
WHY I LOVE WILLOWDEAN DICKSON
+ Never have I read a more clear and charismatic voice in YA. Murphy nails it with Willowdean’s internal thoughts and opinions. Willowdean is a true teenager that I can wholeheartedly relate to.
+ Willowdean is fat and she knows it. She’s got her confidence, but she’s also got her insecurities – as most teens do. And I love that about Willowdean. However, she doesn’t let her insecurities get the best of her. She conquers them.
+ She’s a teen and with that comes love problems, of course! Willowdean falls for her co-worker Bo Larson; what I love about this relationship is that Willowdean spends zero time describing his physical attributes – only how kind he is to her. This romance was one that I really fell for! *swoon*
+ Willowdean unexpectedly finds herself in a group of friends she wouldn’t usually go for. I think Murphy communicates the idea that people should give others a try before walking away just from a first impression really efficiently.
+ She joins a teen beauty pageant and gives zero f*cks about what her mother thinks (her mother runs the pageant and is occasionally ashamed of Willowdean’s figure).
I could go on about the many other qualities I love about Willowdean, but I don’t want to tell you too much, because I want you to meet Willowdean for yourself! If this book doesn’t scream AWESOME to you, I don’t know what will. Dumplin’ is a feel-good read with a charming, sharp, and memorable main protagonist. Next time someone needs a pick-me-up, you can guarantee I’m book-pushing Dumplin’ on ‘em!