Author: Julie Murphy
Series: None. Standalone
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Source: Egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects the honesty of this review.
Before I start, I feel like I need to warn you. I loved this book so much and I see a lot of shouty caps and exclamation points in your future if you choose to continue reading. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Unless you like shouty caps and awesome books and my excitement about them. In that case, enjoy! Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean 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 Teen Blue Bonnet 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.
1. This entire book is centered around body positivity, even when Willowdean is not feeling positive about her body.
Willowdean Dickson calls herself a token fat girl. She is our narrator and she discusses things like how the word “fat” offends people, but as she explains, that’s what she is. She has this incredible outlook on life and she knows she is fabulous. She never lets her weight drag down her positive attitude, that is, until she meets Bo. After she and Bo have their little fling, Will lets her body take over her mind. She feels disgusting in her own skin, which she shouldn’t because she’s amazing, and lets this control her life. Then, when going through her deceased Aunt Lucy’s things, she sees the application for the town pageant – which is a BIG deal. She decides to enter, because it’s not something anyone could expect. From there, so much happens that I won’t tell you. However, I adored Will through this whole book. She went through such an incredible metamorphosis and I just want to be best friends with her. She sounded like me, talking to me through a book.
2. The Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant is almost like a character in this book.
Will’s mom runs the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant and she has for as long as Will can remember. But unlike most pageant moms, Will’s mother has never asked her to join or even considered that she’d have an interest. Her mother always likes to bring up that she used to be a bigger girl, then shed the weight her freshman year of high school (unlike her sister, Lucy, who died of a heart attack at over 500 pounds). Will’s mother is sneaky with her tactics and fad with her diets for Will. When Will decides to join the pageant, her mother is most definitely not enthused. The pageant normally takes over her mother’s life, but when Will joins, there is extra tension. Her mother seems to believe that Will aims to embarrass her and that she doesn’t take the pageant seriously. Just like football is a big deal in the south, so this pageant is to their small Texas town. The pageant takes over Will’s life, even when she doesn’t mean it to. At first, she is gung ho about showing how anyone can be anything with enough courage and confidence, which leads to Amanda, Hannah, and Millie (girls that are relentlessly bullied for their looks) to join Will’s ranks as pageant outcasts. This creates a whole new dynamic that helps Will (also inviting the pageant to permeate her life) which I’ll explain shortly! All in all, the book says it best. About the pageant, Will says, “But I don’t want it to be brave. I want it to be normal.” (79% in the ARC). This is what this book boils down to. Yes, Willowdean, YAAASSSS!!!
3. Ellen and Will have the cutest best friendship.
El and Will’s friendship was built on a mutual love for Dolly Parton when they were kids. El’s mother is a Dolly impersonator. They have been inseparable since childhood. Then, when Will enters the pageant, El does too, and that is too much for jealous Will. Before entering the pageant, Will talks a lot about how she thinks she and El are growing apart and she is extremely upset about it. When the pageant happens, that is the last straw. Through most of the book, we see El and Will blatantly ignoring each other and it really broke my heart. However, enter the school misfits: Amanda, Hannah, and Millie. They become extremely close with Will through their involvement in the pageant and they’re some of my favorite characters. This book is heavy on the friendship aspect, too, which I adored. At one point, Mitch (who I’ll talk about shortly) says to Will, “‘Listen,’ he says. ‘I obviously don’t know the whole story here, but good friendships are durable. They’re meant to survive the gaps and the growing pains.'” (55% in the ARC). This is golden and so, so true. Slow, thunderous clap for you, Julie Murphy.
4. There is kind of a love triangle here. As a notorious hater of love triangles, though, I actually didn’t mind this one.
Will has this thing with Bo over the summer, but then she feels like a secret so she leaves. Then, come to find out, that Private School Bo is now her classmate, which makes things MORE awkward. Especially when she starts pseudo-dating Mitch. Don’t get me wrong, Mitch is a really nice guy, but from day one Will never experiences the spark she feels with Bo, which leads her to leading Mitch on for an extremely long time in the book. Bo comes back into the picture because he’s amazing and then she’s really torn. However, when this triangle falls apart, there is no huge drama played out in the hallways. There is no tire slashing. There is no extreme emotion. There is just…life going on, which I think was the reason I was okay with this. I love Julie Murphy for giving Will a love triangle. Even when she’s extremely down on herself for her body, she still has two dudes vying for her attention! That is so awesome!
5. The biggest reason I adored this book was its focus on loving yourself, regardless of how you look.
Julie Murphy really wrote an incredible book on how to love yourself and its name is Dumplin’. For example, here is Will explaining her criteria for a perfect bikini body: “Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.” (96% in the ARC). Will exudes confidence and you don’t normally see that from a protagonist who is flawed. Actually, you don’t see much of a protagonist’s flaws. I loved Will because she didn’t try to hide her imperfections, even if the only one she complained about was her body. She was proud to be in the skin she was in. Even with her mother harping on her to shed a few pounds before the pageant, she doesn’t, because she knows she is beautiful the way she is. “I’m Dumplin’. And Will and Willowdean. I’m fat. I’m happy. I’m insecure. I’m bold.” (98% in the ARC). I can’t tell you how many times I screamed YAAAAS WILL, YAAAASSSSS!!!!! while reading this book. I lost count. Bottom line: I loved this book for its message.
OVERALL 5 STARS!!! I really, really loved this book. I’m usually not into contemporary, but I adored this so much. This is a great book to pick up if you’re ever feeling down on yourself because it’ll give you the boost you need to pick yourself back up and keep on going. Because, as Will says, “I guess sometimes the perfection we perceive in others is made up of a whole bunch of tiny imperfections, because some days the damn dress just won’t zip.” (99% in the ARC). Trust me when I say you need this book in your life. This comes out on September 15, 2015 so click the link below to go forth and preorder!