Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: Dumplin'

Author: Julie Murphy
Published: September 15th, 2015
Hardcover, 375 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

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.

This is the kind of gem you want to find. I wasn't sure about it until my friends started raving about it, so I knew I had to pick it up. One of my friends dubs Bo as the best boyfriend and saying something like that tells me this is a must read. From the first page, I was sold. Willowdean Dickson isn't ashamed of her body. She knows she's fat and she owns it. She has some insecurities, but for the most part she's fine with how she looks. So when she takes a job at the fast-food restaurant, Harpy's, she expects some snickers behind her but she doesn't expect to find Bo, the gorgeous private school attendee who works in the kitchen. She's even more shocked when he seems to like her back and she can't understand why. Being with him makes her feel more ashamed of her body than she ever has before and she can't figure out why. So she does the one thing she thinks will help her gain her confidence back - she enters the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, a life she's always grown up with thanks to her mom but never fit into. It's hard but hopefully it'll be worth it.

I'm not plus-size. I've always been the skinniest person in the group, but over the years I've gained some weight and some days I feel gross. I think every girl can relate to Willowdean's body insecurities, especially if they're with a guy they really like for the first time and are afraid he'll discover all the things we try to hide. I related to her so much that I wish she were real and my friend. She makes real mistakes and deals with real things and I fell in love with her right away. Her friendship with Ellen is tested throughout the book, and the fact that Ellen is skinny and beautiful, something that never bugged Willow before, becomes a divide in their friendship. And spending time with Bo has changed Willow as well, as it would any girl who is suddenly being treated nicely by a guy and kissing for the first time in their lives. It's a scary time for any girl, and Julie has captured the worries and emotions of any teen girl.

The beauty pageant is a great addition to the book. It has always lived with Willow as her mom is in charge of running it every year, but it was never really hers. Suddenly she has thrust herself into the world head first, along with some of her unconventional friends to fight the system that only beautiful girls can compete and that someone who may not fit the look that is expected could still walk away with the crown. This is a such a great message for any young girl reading the book, showing them that they can be themselves, shouldn't be ashamed of how they look, and to go after the things they want in life. Sometimes it's hard to look in a mirror and love everything we see. We all thing we'd like to change, but if we can find a way to be happy with ourselves, then we'll be set. The characters all stood out to me, even Willow's aunt who is dead before the book begins plays just as big a part as her mom or friends do. Bo is certainly worthy of being one of the best book boyfriends (not my number one though!) and Willow is the perfect main character. Her voice is so real and her reactions and emotions to events happening throughout the book. She isn't perfect, none of us are, but her journey through having her first boyfriend, having a fight with her best friend, losing her favourite aunt, and joining and succeeding in a beauty pageant, is one that I won't forget anytime soon and will continue to recommend this to my friends.

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything, it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. It doesn’t matter.”

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