Author: Julie Murphy
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Penguin Teen Australia
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.Review by Nara
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 think perhaps my expectations were slightly too high for this one. I did enjoy it overall, but definitely not to the degree that everyone else seems to have been, especially with five star ratings being thrown left and right. The main reason I was disappointed was that the book ended up being kind of typical rather than the fresh take on body image I expected it to be, with the whole beauty contest ending up being a relatively minor part of the plot.
I also didn't really like Willowdean as a character. Of course, it was clear that she was made to be flawed on purpose, making her a much more realistic character, but that certainly didn't make her particularly likeable. I could forgive most things about her, but for the way she treated one of the characters, Mitch. I mean, just because you have some issues of your own, that doesn't really excuse you from treating others badly, and the way that Willowdean treats Mitch really didn't sit well with me (I won't actually say what she did because of spoilers).
That being said, Will definitely was an intriguing character- she's incredibly sassy, and most of the time appears accepting of her own weight. At the same time, she does have her insecurities about her body image, most evident when she's suspicious about why Bo, a good looking coworker, seems to like her. Her insecurities also lead to her having a bit of a falling out with her best friend Ellen, who Will thinks is a lot prettier and skinnier than her. While I thought Will was being a bit unreasonable here, there's no doubt that she acted in a realistic way, especially when it came to her trying to make amends with Ellen.
Overall, Dumplin' was definitely a pro-body image novel that realistically examines the issues and insecurities that come with being overweight. Despite not enjoying it as much as I expected, I'd definitely still recommend that you give it a read.