*Minor character spoilers*
I’m hooked on Willowdean
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.
Dumplin’ is a completely refreshing YA contemporary with a protagonist that is so full of personality and so relatable on many levels. I have to say that for me, this was such a captivating read full of sass, humour, romance and heart.
“I think maybe it’s the things we don’t want to talk about that are the things people most want to hear.”
Unlike other contemporary novels that reference female archetypes with perfectly fit bodies and long flowing hair that all the boys want to be with, this features beautiful archetypes that come in all shapes and sizes. Willowdean is a self proclaimed curvy girl and her friendship circle throughout this book grows to include other young women who represent what one wouldn’t consider to be stereotypical versions of beauty. I really liked this aspect of Dumplin’ and respect that Murphy never made it feel like Willowdean and her squad were made up of mismatched and unwanted toys.
My favourite part of this book – apart from the body confidence – is all the references to Dolly Parton and in particular, the song Jolene. Ugh, I love Dolly Parton so much and there are just never enough references to how glorious she is.
“My first kiss. It’s the fastest thing that lasts forever.”
Isn’t Willowdean just a glorious name? I really like that even though Willowdean is supremely confident in herself, she is still a real life teen and suffers moments of insecurity like everyone else. The way she picks herself up and lets her heart guide her through her small town life made this story and her character all the more better.
Let’s take a second to talk about Bo and Mitch, the two men who rock Willowdean’s world in one way or another.
Bo is what some would consider to be the perfect book boyfriend – supportive, funny, sweet and full of heart, he loves Willowdean for everything that she is; curves and all. I love that he was able to open up and be vulnerable with her the further on we got into the book and the way he pops up in the end…we should all be so lucky to have someone look at us that way. Sigh.
Mitch on the other hand is the less popular choice but my, my did I like him. If I had to choose, I would pick Mitch everytime. Sorry Bo! I have to say that one of the things I didn’t like about Willowdean was the way in which she treated Mitch. It is very obvious that like Bo, he is into her the way she is, but instead of treating him with the respect and attention he deserves, she plays his emotions a little on her path to self discovery. I think I would’ve liked their dynamic more if she had been upfront about being just friends – I think he made a great confidante.
So obviously I’ve mentioned two guys which means…love triangle. While yes there is a triangle that pulls at your heartstrings and frustrates you to no end, I couldn’t help but feel that these two guys helped serve Willowdean’s character growth in an unexpected way.
I could say so much about this book but I’m going to cut it off here. Overall this is a really fun and at times empowering read (depending on what you want to take from it) and Julie Murphy has fast become a favourite author of mine. Side note: I also saw this cool interview with author Julie Murphy over on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls site.
Have you read Dumplin’? I’ve seen some mixed reviews on this book so I’d love to know what you thought.
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