Published by Penguin Teen Australia on September 15th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
I went into this book with trepidation. While I know that many people loved her debut novel Side Effects May Vary, I personally couldn’t gel with the characters and found that I struggled to relate or identify with the protagonist or the situation even though the flow of writing was absolutely phenomenal. I was interested to see how this book would go, I could see that Julie Murphy had potential and the synopsis sounded much more uplifting – I definitely had my hopes up.
Dumplin’ completely delivered for me. Perhaps the fact I read it on a girls weekend away was just the right mood for an embracing everyone, female empowerment type novel though I think I could have read it anywhere and in any situation and really enjoyed myself. This is the type of book you can binge on – like rom coms at a girly slumber party you will just devour it, its simply great fun and I think most girls will be able to identify with the take away message of the novel.
Our protagonist, Willowdean is not your stick thin super model style girl. You never actually find out how much of her issues regarding weight is her self esteem vs actuality but you know that she certainly can’t fit into clothes purchased in your average teen clothing stores. Weight is a constant problem in Willow’s life like white noise constantly going in the background there is always something to make her remember that she doesn’t look like the worlds sterotype of a teen girl.
Her weight issues are really brought to life when the Clover City Beauty Paegent begins – Willow’s mother was the crowning beauty queen when she was in high school and has since then been one of the main organisers and presenters each year – still fitting into her winning formal gown. Willow decides to shake things up when she uncovers that her recently deceased aunt who was also very overweight always wished she had entered. Willow decides to have the courage to do what her aunt never could, she enters herself as a contestant, unwittingly starting a misfit revolution with a band of girls at her high school.
The majority of this book is all in Willow’s head and you realise how much pretty much every situation and interaction in her life is tarnished by her relationship with her figure and weight. Simple things like being asked out by a guy or going to the pool on a hot day can mean a lot of second guessing and worrying. It also creates significant divide in her relationships with her mother, best friend and co workers.
Perhaps its because I’m an adult well past my secondary school years and confident and comfortable in my own skin, but I really felt she pushed people away over this one issue that suposedly wasn’t a problem to her – she feels she is happy with her weight but Willow is a walking contradiction of mental inner dialogue and actions that don’t align. If I’m honest a small part of me was also really frustrated that considering what a large elephant in the room her weight was, she never even considered trying to make just a few small changes even for a day to help her feel better about herself. I understand that this wasn’t the message that Murphy wants to give and I completely agree that no one should have to change who they are to fit in society but it was such a glaringly obvious part of her life that made her unhappy constantly and she was such a action based individual that I really wanted to see her succeed either to mentally get past it or make the changes she needed to help her feel confidence.
My frustration with this book though was seriously only a small party of my overall thoughts while reading Dumplin’ and I can’t sing it anything other than praise for being a unique, uplifting and entertaining voice amongst contemporary young adult novels. A refreshing and fun read I would recommend to anyone!