Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Review of Dumplin'

Dumplin' is a book by Julie Murphy, who also wrote Ramona Blue and Side Effects May Vary. Willowdean Dickson, a self-proclaimed fat girl, lives in South Texas with her former beauty queen mum. She works at a local fast food/diner restaurant. She has a huge crush on one of her co-workers, Bo and a best friend with a pet snake. At that year's Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant, arranged by her mother, Willowdean ends up signing up with a group of other equally unlikely entrants.

Willowdean is not perfect. She can be judgemental, herself, and sometimes comments on other people's body size, for example. However, sometimes either she or the narrative will call her out. For instance, she assumes Bo is rich because he went to private school, without truly understanding the circumstances around it. She also treats Mitch pretty awfully, despite the fact that he has been nothing but kind to her. She's also insecure, as much as she wants to own her size, she finds it hard, at times. I also loved her relationship with Bo. It seemed much deeper than a lot of YA romances, I thought. They had an established interest in each other before the book started, and since the book takes place over a number of months, we're able to see how their relationship develops.

I was never fat, although my mother often did tell me to "lose weight, eat healthier and do more exercise" in my more sedentary teenage years. If I do put on a couple of pounds, it tends to jump right to my hips and thighs, leading to occasional days where my jeans feel too tight. However, I do struggle with some parts of my body I don't like. I wish I could hold my head high and act like I don't care, but I can't. I saw my own struggles reflected in a lot of Willowdean's issues with her self-confidence. I hope that some of her's and especially, Jessica's attitudes will rub off on me.

This is one of a few books where I liked the supporting cast as much as the main characters. Everyone is shown to have hidden depths. Millie, the innocent girl who wants to do as well in a pageant as she can. Amanda, the girl with a disability who surprises the other characters (and me, too, I'll have to admit) by doing some awesome football tricks. Snarky Jessica, who warms up to the odd group she's with over time. Even Callie is shown to know sign language, which made me wonder if she may have a family member who is deaf or hard of hearing. And Willowdean's mother works in the local nursing home, a far cry from her beauty queen past.

I loved the story being set in Texas, because unlike most States, I've been to Texas! I was nodding along at the descriptions of the heat, and the unique culture of Texas is used well in the story, too.

I recommend this book for anyone who had ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin. I also recommend you read it with a playlist of Dolly Parton songs nearby!

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