By the look of my to-be-read pile, I might have to open up the YA section of my book reviews to include all varieties of young adult books, because Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy sure isn’t horror.
It is, however, a brilliant, engaging, real story about not giving a flip about the status quo and body positivity that is told expertly. This is the sort of book to read if you love Rainbow Rowell’s work, because the characters are wonderful, because it has a similar flavour, because you can’t put the book down, and because it leaves you feeling all warm and squishy after you’re done.
For the record, I loved both Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, and the snappy storytelling in Dumplin’ feels very similar: the writing is efficient, utterly believable (you would think these were real people), and I can remember my teenage self in Julie Murphy’s words. (Hell, I can remember my adult self in her words.)
To be clear: I was a skinny kid, and a skinny teenager, and a skinny twenty-something, but I still remember having similar thoughts to Willowdean; the same preoccupations about my weight and the same self-consciousness growing up. It doesn’t matter if you were or are overweight or not, Willowdean is as relatable a protagonist as they come.
But Willowdean has balls and you can’t help but root for her and her friends.
As far as the storytelling goes, Dumplin’ is on-point. The supporting characters are hilarious, the parents act like parents, and Bo — well, well, well. Bo has a peachbutt. It’s structurally sound as eff, as far as a story can be set up. There are no loose ends. No sloppy writing, and overall, a very satisfying experience that makes you want more.
Dumplin’ by Julie MurphyDumplin' (Dumplin', #1) by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 15th 2015
Check it out: 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.Buy on Amazon