- Julie Murphy
- Released September 15th 2015
- Book 1 of Dumplin
- 3 Stars
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. But when she takes a job at the local fast food place, Harpy’s, and meets Bo, a hot jock from the private school who seems to actually like her, Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. To regain her confidence, she enters the Miss Clover City beauty pageant to prove to the world that a beauty pageant candidate does not have to be skinny to succeed.
This is contemporary YA so my expectations are for boring stories because that’s all the genre really is, descriptions of the everyday lives of a cast of characters that may or may not be that eventful. Dumplin is like that in some ways. But where it excels is its tackling of the relationship people have with their weight while growing up. This is a book about a girl who has to learn to love her body and accept that others do to and for the most part, by the end of the book Willowdean has come to that conclusion.
Let’s start with the great things about Dumplin. The relationships that are crafted between her and her friends – Bo, Ellen, the other unlikely candidates – as well as her relationship to her mother, I felt, were fleshed out nicely and realistically. The crux of all of these relationships is that at the start of the book, Will is content with all of them and so to is she at the end. But through the book, she fights with them all sometimes out of selfishness, and other times out of insecurity. And they all react accordingly as well, no one close to her sticks with Will for the whole book. The arguments feel real because of this and it makes Will’s story much more about self discovery.
I also like how this book tackles body positivity. From her aforementioned friends who never criticize her about her weight to her mother with whom Will has a hard time justifying her size, Will faces really realistic reactions from the people around her to her weight. And while she does have urges to change herself out of shame at points in the book, by the end she is confident about herself. Though at points Will gets judgmental and skinny shames, it’s out of anger and again, by the end of the book everything is smoothed out.
Now for the things that were not so good about Dumplin. I’ve already talked about the pacing and while yes I get that this is contemporary and you can’t really have supernatural creatures coming out of nowhere to stir up action, I at least wanted to laugh or cry with this book. At some points in the middle, I was kind of willing the book to go faster hoping to see something exciting or moving, but it doesn’t really happen.
Dumplin was also really predictable. I knew what Will’s reaction would be when Ellen entered the pageant; I knew what was going to happen when Ellen picks up new friends; I knew how the Bo-Will-Mitch thing was going to work out. BTW, totally useless love triangle. We all know she’s heading back to Bo and Will’s relationship with Mitch didn’t really do anything to make her a better person or anything. Actually, Will and Bo don’t really have chemistry either. He doesn’t ever talk so we never get any insight into how he’s feeling and the way their clandestine make out sessions start seems so shady and random. I suppose that’s where some of my detachment from the book comes from.
For not having a lot of action, Dumplin could have done a lot worse so I am happy for that. If you like contemporary fiction books that really send a message, then give Dumplin a try!