Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Pub Date: Sep. 15th 2015
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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.
It still blows my mind that I was able to to not only get an advanced copy of this book from BEA but I also met the incredible author- Julie Murphy! Embarrassingly enough, I have not read her debut Side Effects May Vary (I know, I’m terrible!) but I have been a long term fan of her based off of twitter and instagram. Anyways, when I heard about Dumplin’ it immediately became one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I was so excited that I actually participated in a promo over the summer where I took pictures of mini Willowdean everywhere I went; if you’d like to see those look under #minidumplin on instagram!
How can I accurately describe my love for this book? Dumplin’ not only delivers a great story about a girl discovering REAL self love but is also a great conversation starter for the ‘taboo’ subject of fat characters. Funnily enough, while I was reading this book the controversial ‘Dear Fat People’ video was trending and many people were reacting to it (check out my favorite reaction by Sylvia from Fangirl Feeels). The combination of Julie Murphy’s powerful writing and the reactions of the video had such an effect on me.
Let’s start off with the infamous Willowdean! Willow is such a loveable character, when we first meet her, her confidence basically oozes out of the book. She was the Dolly Parton loving resident fat girl and she will tell you that to your face. Her and her best friend have been inseparable since they were kids and everything seems to be going well in life since she has such an IDGAF attitude towards the haters- but then it all changes.
This part of the book is where many 1 star reviewers complain- Willow loses her confidence when a boy takes interest in her. She suddenly becomes over-aware of her body and how it’s different than her best friend’s as well as all the pageant girls in town. I usually hate when female characters lose themselves when they meet a guy but Julie does an amazing job making her feelings so real. I mean come on- I know I feel a bit self conscious when I catch someone looking at me, it’s a totally natural feeling!
Another element of Willowdean that I adored was how she admitted (albeit only to herself) when she was wrong. There were multiple times when she would realize that she was wrong or selfish, but every opportunity she has to try and make it right is taken away from her. Once again, many people disliked the book because of these characteristics but I found that these flaws made her human- what teenage girl doesn’t fight with her mom and best friend? Maybe it’s just my experiences but I found that Julie did an amazing job making Willow a convincing teenage girl.
I’m going to briefly switch gears and discuss some of the other characters. Millie has to be my favorite character out of the entire book for more than one reason. She was kind to everyone she interacted with and she often acted as the mediator between Willow, Hannah, and Amanda. Millie looked up to Willow too, which I found ironic because I thought it should be the other way around. Millie unknowingly helps Willow and I love her for it. Hannah and Amanda were close favorites as well, I loved how they went through with the competition despite *some* objections to it at first.
To wrap up, I really enjoyed this novel! I felt that it was real, magnificent, and essential and I certainly hope that more books like this will be created. As you can tell, the characters were the most important part of the story (in my opinion), but I also LOVED the atmosphere. I heard the southern accents and felt what the characters were feeling. There were so many elements that made it fantastic, but I’m afraid that I will write a book of how fantastic it is if I go on.
Read Dumplin’, it’s such an important story.