Tuesday, June 13, 2017
A Review of Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, 2015
Balzer + Bray, 384 pages
Ages 14 & up
Sixteen-year old Willowdean is, in her own words, fat. For the most part, she is comfortable in her own skin and accepts her body the way it is, even if her former beauty queen and pageant organizer mother can't. She and her best friend Ellen have been friends since they were little, bonding over their mutual love of Dolly Parton, and always have each others' backs.
But that summer things begin to change. Willowdean and Ellen get jobs at different places, and Ellen starts hanging out with a "mean girl" she works with and takes her relationship with her boyfriend to the next level, and she and Willowdean begin drifting apart. Meanwhile, Willowdean is crushing on the hot boy at work, and much to her surprise, he seems to like her, too! But, while she enjoys their make-out sessions, Willowdean also feels a surge of insecurity about her body everytime Bo touches her, and she fears what people would say if they saw them together, causing her to pull away and break things off.
Then one day Will is going through her late-aunt's things, and finds a registration form for the local beauty pageant from many years ago. She realizes that her aunt must have thought about entering, but didn't because of her weight. Will then realizes her aunt missed out on other things because she let her size hold her back, and Willowdean vows not to make the same mistake. So, she decides to do the most outrageous thing she can think of, and enters the pageant to prove to herself and everyone else that she deserves to be there as much as anyone else.
I did not read this when it first came out because I was not all that impressed with the author's first book, Side Effects May Vary. But, I kept hearing people saying good things about it, so I decided to give it a try, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I found I really enjoyed this book, and that it did not suffer from the same problems the first book did. Willowdean was a very likeable and well-developed character with strengths and flaws and a wonderful spirit. The supporting characters were well-developed as well.
This is a fun read that is not too serious, but has a meaningful message, perfect for a summer read. It deals with issues most teenagers deal will deal with to at least some extent: body image, changing friendships, dating, and struggling against parental expectations. This book would appeal to those who like realistic fiction, and particularly to those who enjoy books by Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Dessen, or John Green. Another book that deals with body issues (as well as several other teen issues), but is more serious is Gabi: A Girl In Pieces, by Isabel Quintero.
Other Books by This Author
Julie Murphy has also written two other teen novels, Side Effects May Vary and the just released Blue.