Turning the Pages: Dumplin’ by @andimJULIE

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Overall Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is guaranteed to steal your heart.

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.

What We Liked

How real it felt with each of the characters and how each in their own way struggled with self esteem and the perceptions forced upon them because of social constructs.

  • The [highlight]romance[/highlight] delightfully blooms over time but in some ways does come across as insta-love when you first meet Willowdean crushing on Bo. They jump head first into a relationship without a clue what they’re doing – typical of teens – but over time, you cannot deny their chemistry or how they fit each other in a more mature, meant to be way. This love story unfolds how the halls of high school breeds bitterness, heartbreak and sometimes even a love that could develop into “the one.”
  • If you’re seeking a character who is perfect, just stop right here, because no one in this book does not carry their baggage close wherever they go and frankly I wouldn’t have it any other way. When someone’s a brat, even downright cruel, there are reasons but no excuses are given. Neuroses are not looked down upon, but they are not allowed to be used in a way that gets you out of growing up, acting your age and bettering yourself. They are recognized and then you deal. If you can’t handle the truth, [highlight]Dumplin'[/highlight] might not sit right with you. Or maybe, [highlight]Dumplin’[/highlight] is the book you need, because of a character inside it. This character might help you realize how you are not alone in how you feel and help you see your inner strength to make the changes you wish to see in yourself.
  • No magical makeover. No obsessing about food. No constant scales or weighing. Just dealing with all the [highlight]crap-ton feelings[/highlight] of growing up and learning to accept yourself as you are.

What We Didn’t Like

[highlight]SPOILERISH:[/highlight] Okay, I really felt bad for one character in particular here who was sort of the scape goat for the emotional fallout while Willowdean sorted through her feelings for Bo. There are rebound persons, so many times, and I understand that’s reality, but I still felt horribly for him. (And yes, I realize I’m speaking of a fictional character as if he were real and had feelings.)

WTF Moments

Quite a few for a contemporary, realistic YA. Most center around other characters opening up to Willowdean once she puts herself out there. A lot of bravery on everyone’s part that had me cheering.

Overall Thoughts

What a sweet little story that packs a big hearty punch. Willowdean and Bo and every single… EVERY SINGLE… character in [highlight]Dumplin'[/highlight] comes alive and deserves a huge, sound standing ovation. Side characters and all grow into fully fleshed individuals who I would totally want at a sleepover and heck yeah, we’d all be having a slumber party because that’s how Willowdean’s squad rolls. These girls are learning to be fierce, proud and cope with the meanness of a society filled with insecurities that leave people open to ridicule and many times feels like a confidence sucking leech. However, owning labels and recognizing yourself in a way that makes you feel happy centers this story about Willowdean and her circle of people as they navigate the heady world of fitting in, believing in yourself and being more than what the norm says you should be. Everyone faces a moment where they can embrace who they are or just let the negativity get to them … however, happiness with yourself makes life a whole lot sweeter.

Movie/TV Potential

Definitely this book has so much potential… which is why… tada! Disney has already snatched it up for an upcoming feature film. I adored The DUFF and feel that [highlight]Dumplin'[/highlight] has much of the same vibe going for it as The DUFF did when it transitioned to film.

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