Well, WOW, Dumplin’ was a breath of fresh air. Seriously, peoples, this is a brilliant book. BRILLIANT. I was freakishly worried before I started because the author’s first book, Side Effects May Vary and I did NOT have a good relationship. (To date, it’s still a book I totally don’t understand and kind of growl at.) But this is an excellent example of why one must read several books by the same author because Dumplin‘ was so incredible.
\\ NOTE: I have to share quotes with you peoples because they’re so brilliant, but this is an ARC and these quotes may NOT be the final product. So don’t re-quote me, okay? //
I squinted at a few things (mainly the romance), but mostly the characters were realistic, the plot was down to earth and it was deliciously feminist. OH. And it’s about a beauty pageant, so do you know what comes next?
OH HELLO TO MISS CONGENIALITY. Probably the best movie in the history of ever. Just so we’re clear on that. Gifs are coming! BUT I DIGRESS! LET’S MOVE FORWARD, SHALL WE?
The characters are downright fabulous. We’re talking glitter and own it fabulousness. They’re not perfect, gosh, they’re riddled with flaws, but everyone is interesting and dimensional. Sometimes Willowdean rubbed me the wrong way. But I can’t deny how realistic she is. She has insecurities and anxieties and fantasies and is feministic. And she has ATTITUDE. She introduces herself as “Cashier, Dolly Parton enthusiast, and resident fat girl.”
Willowdean is complex. She’s mostly glitter and fabulousness — but that doesn’t stop the insecurities appearing. She’s concerned about her body image: but she wants to be happy with it. She doesn’t believe in changing to fit society’s standards. If you’re going to change, do it for YOU not someone else. This is mildly glorious advice. Willowdean is the kind of protagonist I want to read about.
“You’re missing out on so much.” She takes a step toward me. “Boys and dating. That kind of stuff.”
I scrub my hands down my face. “You have got to be kidding me. News flash, Mom: a man will not cure my troubles.”
And the writing? It’s very detailed and vivid. This made for slow reading, though. I’m usually a speed-reader, but I felt I had to physically sloooow dooooown. Which is okay, because I also felt like every detail made the story pop off the page.
OTHER THINGS I REALLY LIKED:
- The setting isn’t solely classrooms. YAY. Actually, most of the setting is at their homes or at the fast-food restaurants they work at.
- It’s hilarious when Willowdean’s mother (who is in charge of the pageant) gets all righteous about how it’s “not a joke” and how it’s “so important” it just reminded me of Miss Congeniality so so much.
- How there’s a lot of emphasis on friends! And that growing up doesn’t have to mean growing apart.
- And how it smacked down cliches: the girl with horrible teeth isn’t stupid and clueless, the jock isn’t always self-obsessed, the “frumpy” girl is the sweetest thing you’ll ever meet.
- How the protagonist was pretty much a normal average person — school, work, TV, tada. No eccentricities. (Although I do love eccentric characters, it’s just nice to read about someone who’s down-to-earth once in a while.)
- Oh and tacos.
“There was some old guy catcallin’ from the drive-thru. Called me sweetcheeks.”
“Awww,” she says. “Well, that’s kind of flattering if you think about it.”
“Mama, come on. No, that’s gross.”
Okay, but we gotta talk WHY I cringe about the romance. It’s a complicated relationship, I GET THAT. It’s realistic! When society views you as looking “wrong” (like Willowdean is “fat”) then you’re going to be plagued by anxieties. But I felt Willowdean, who had such emphasis on “right thinking”, acted pathetic about it. She wallows in the no-one-will-ever-love-me attitude, but ends up torn between two guys??? REALLY?? (I hate triangle-type relationships, because someone is always being lead on/used and that’s unfair on them and cruel.)
So Willowdean meets Bo (which is an adorable name, and reminds me of Po from Graceling, whom I also adore) at work and they have a tentative summery fling. THEN THEY BREAK UP TRAGICALLY. Why? That is an excellent question, my friends. I have no idea. I don’t understand what went wrong between them. I guess they didn’t communicate about if they were going to be a couple?? And Willowdean was so obsessed with the fact that she was unwantable, that she made herself be unwantable by walking away.
(Anyway, I could be wrong about my analysation of their feelings. It was just so confusing for me.)
Willowdean is very self-centred. Which was hard to read about. It’s her flaw, I get it. But is she really so wrapped up in herself that she doesn’t think about the feelings of, say, her best friend?? GET A GRIP, WOMAN.
But otherwise, I feel like this is a super EMPOWERING book! It left me with an epic list of quotes that I want to just, possibly, eat because they are so good. It was just so refreshing to read about a girl who isn’t skinny. She’s just a teen trying to find her way in the world. And she messes up SO BAD. But that’s also realistic. And the ending is unexpected, a little bittersweet, and heartwarming. I’m pleased with this Dumplin’. I am.
I hear things like, “so horrible” or “I’m sorry, but she’s hideous” or “why doesn’t she get braces?”
That last one is the sentiment that stays with me all day because Hannah shouldn’t have to get braces. Maybe she can’t afford them or maybe she’s scared to get them. Either way, she shouldn’t have to fill her mouth with metal so that some shitheads will leave her alone.
THANK YOU TO PENGUIN FOR THE ARC! Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy was published in August, 2015.
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.