For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart. Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean 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 Teen Blue Bonnet 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.
Willowdean herself has a tough and confident exterior, but the author does a phenomenal job of showing how even girls that appear to have it all together can have crippling insecurities. Throughout the novel we watch Will as she fights her own demons and struggles against the messages that the world is constantly pushing at her; that she isn't good enough, that she should be ashamed of her body, that someone her size doesn't deserve happiness. Sometimes she falters, which makes this novel all the more relatable, but she gets back up again and comes out stronger than before.
Dumplin' features a not-so-typical romance between Will and Bo - the last guy she ever expected to be interested in her. There is a touch of a triangle, as another suitor tries to garner her affection, but it never actually ventures into the been-there-read-that territory of the literary trope. The reader is never quite sure of Bo's intentions and, for most of the novel, we get wrapped up in the mystery of him right alongside Willowdean. It is heartbreaking to watch (but oh so relatable) as Will stiffens at his touch and wonders if she is good enough or if he is being honest.
Dumplin' is not just a story about a self-proclaimed fat girl finding her place in the spotlight. It runs deeper than that. Through Willowdean's internal struggle and the revelations of the other girls in the pageant, we see how everyone suffers with insecurities, no matter their shape or size. The overwhelming message, however, is that we not allow the internal monologue of "not good enough" to hold you back from wonderful and important life experiences.
Bottom Line: Dumplin is a book that I would recommend to anyone and especially one that all teenagers should read. It now sits on a special shelf in my classroom (at least it would if it wasn't being read so often!)
When Willowdean Dickson decides to enter the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant, she has no idea the ripple effect her entry will cause. She just wants to honor her Aunt’s memory, and prove a point. During the course of the contest, however, she does so much more. Like get her first kiss, fall in love, break up with her best friend, and make some new friends along the way. But here’s the thing - Willowdean doesn’t look like your average beauty contestant. She takes up space and she’s not ashamed of that, she embraces who she is…but she doesn’t quite buy that OTHER people embrace her. All of her.
What transpires is a heartfelt, honest journey of a girl who struggles with fitting in, being bullied, and ultimately loving yourself. Through Murphy’s hilarious prose, we get a glimpse into small-town life and just how much trouble being different can create. Willowdean’s voice is strong and carries her confidence from the page to the reader with ease, and when she struggles to see herself as that wildly bold, creative young woman, the readers are right there with her. I cried, laughed, and found a well-spring of confidence from her story.
One thing I marveled at was the way in which Murphy addressed body image issues. Willowdean is heavy and she makes no apologies for that, which I loved. I love that her personal focus isn't on her weight, or losing weight, or food. No, Willowdean is focused on how she feels, how she makes others feel, and she spends her time worrying about if she’s living her life bravely enough. Can I just take a moment and tell you how refreshing this is? I’ve been hard pressed to find a YA book that doesn’t force the message that being healthy and skinny are mutually inclusive, but Dumplin’ takes into account a whole new level of living life in a balanced and healthy way that isn’t found in many books. YA or otherwise.
Okay, now that my body image academic side has geeked out, I can talk about the other amazing components of this story. Like the fact that Willowdean starts this ripple effect of acceptance in her circle of friends. The relationships were so honest, in part because of the brutally honest internal dialogue that made me stop, set the book down, and stare at a wall to process the insight. Willowdean might just be a wizard.
If you want to laugh, cry, and be inspired to follow your dreams, this book is for you. This book is for everyone.
Without giving away spoilers, I just feel like the romance should have turned out differently. There are basically two major plot threads - the romance thread and the relationship with her mother thread. I feel like both of them had awesome parts, but I also would rather things had come together differently, particularly the romance thread. I'm not a fan of the main love interest and I feel like his character didn't get explored deeply enough. In general I feel like the book fizzled out in the end.
But the main character is so fun to read and so likeable that the book is still really enjoyable and I think we need more books like it out there.
Addresses body image in an excellent way
Fat heroine doesn't try to lose weight, still has a love life.
Willowdean is a fat girl and she's not afraid to say it. She's comfortable in her own body, despite her mom's (the former beauty queen) insistence that she lose weight. Will grows feelings for her co-worker, Bo, and ends up having a summer relationship with her. For some reason, Will begins to feel doubt about herself, so she does something that she never expected to do: enter her mom's beauty pageant.
I had high expectations for this book and it just wasn't what I expected. First of all, it was a bit boring. Will doesn't even get the idea to go into the pageant until more than halfway through the book! That's the main part of the book! And everything also felt incredibly draggy. Honestly, not a whole lot happened. Still, there were enjoyable moments.
Besides the mostly positive reviews, I wanted to read this book because of the meaning it provides. This books deals with body positivity, something that the book world needs. I know that many, myself included, are not comfortable in their own skin and I like having a character that is actually comfortable in her skin, and heck, I like the fact that there's a fat MC without a focus on getting skinny (like most books).
I must mention, though, that Will did bother me at times. She wasn't very good with her relationships. Meaning: she picked fights with those close to her and I thought some of it was unnecessary. For example: she got in a huge fight with her best friend,Ellen, because Will didn't want her to be in the pageant. Why? Because Ellen might actually win. Will wasn't aiming to win this thing and she wasn't letting her best friend enter because there's the small chance she might win. What? Will just have issues with relationships in this book. She was also against the misfits entering and was borderline judgmental about them. While I don't like some things Will did, we all have our flaws and some of the other characters weren't squeaky-clean either. It bothered me at points, but it's all realistic.
There's romance in this book. I don't want to say much about the romance because it's just more of Will's bad decision making. She kind of rebounds and leads a poor, sweet guy on. I also didn't particularly like Bo's decision making either.
I know I sound like I didn't like this book. I kept complaining and complaining, but I actually liked it. Most of my complaining is because I heard so many amazing things about this book beforehand and was kind of let down. Overall, I liked the idea of this book and how it talks about being comfortable in your own skin. It's a needed book in the YA market.
This was such a fun and touching book to read. I found Will easy to relate to, it had great dynamics between characters, it was funny, poignant, and wasn’t afraid to tackle some tough issues.
I loved Will’s confidence at the start of the book. She was a bigger girl, she knew it, and she wasn’t ashamed of it. That was her, take it or leave it. She had a great personality and she was a character I could definitely see myself becoming friends with if she were real. She had to deal with a lot besides body issues as well. There was the romance with Bo, her awkward relationship with her mother, grief over her aunt’s death, and drifting away from her best friend.
The minor characters were all great. Everyone had a role to play in how they affected Will as a character on her growth arc but they also had their own issues happening that they had to deal with. Whether it was guilt, gaining confidence, standing up to parents, grief, self-discovery, each character went through something and as they dealt with their issues, we saw how it affected and sometimes helped Will.
There were so many great friendship moments. First Will and Ellen, best friends, sharing a love of Dolly Parton and being so supportive of each other. The other girls who join the pageant because of Will end up being really good friends as well and there were so many moments that had me laughing as they all had fun together. The romance ended up being pretty light, though it had a lot of affect on Will’s insecurities and decisions. She and Bo made a cute couple and I was definitely rooting for them. The relationship between Will and her mom was complicated and felt realistic. They both cared but rarely talked, or at least said what they truly meant and her mother had a hard time hearing what Will was trying to say. I was definitely hoping for them to finally sit down and just talk to each other because they needed to stick together.
Any worries I had about the way body issues would be portrayed in this book were gone by the time I was halfway through. Will’s voice was just perfect; confident in herself but with moments of insecurity, a fully formed character that had so much personality and who refused to see herself as just ‘the fat girl’. I thought her confidence made her pretty bad-ass.
I also really loved all the Dolly Parton references throughout the book. They were fun and it made me want to turn on some old Country music to listen to after finishing the book.