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.
Dumplin’ was an enjoyable, cheerful contemporary, and was exactly what I wanted it to be. There’s something about this book that makes you feel good and while it is undeniably a fun read, there’s also a lot of depth. I think I learned a lot from Dumplin’, and I highly recommend it.
Willowdean is an overweight, Dolly Parton-obsessed girl living in a small town in the South that is known only for hosting its annual beauty pageant, the Miss Texas Bluebonnet pageant. Her mother is a former beauty queen who is constantly pressuring her to lose weight, but Willowdean is pretty comfortable in her own skin. There’s more to life than appearances after all. Willowdean is confident, fun and snarky, and is super easy to relate to.
Dumplin’ is very much a character-driven book. There’s an undeniable focus on Willowdean’s relationships with others–her mother, her boyfriend, her friends–and I really liked this. This book had some of the best friendships I’ve read about in a while. Each character felt realistic, and had their own goals and motivations. They were clearly well-developed.
Willowdean’s romance with Bo, the guy she works with at Harpy’s, was adorable. I loved how sweet Bo was; he was always there for her when she needed it. At the start, Willowdean was hesitant to date him because she was worried they would be judged but once she grew more confident in their relationship, I started to really love the romance. I definitely ship these two!
Julie Murphy isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Despite her carefree attitude, Willowdean is picked on frequently because of her weight, and even nicknamed Dumplin’ by her mother. She does have her moments of insecurity and fear, especially when the teasing got to its worst, but I admire Willowdean’s ability to try to stay positive. She has a lot of heart.
I haven’t read many books about beauty pageants, and I was very interested to see how this element would be executed in Dumplin’. I’m not going to lie and say that everything magically falls into place for Willowdean, because it didn’t. Lots of people didn’t think Willowdean should enter a beauty pageant because of her weight, and she definitely met a lot of resistance.
I hadn’t read anything else written by Julie Murphy before Dumplin’, but I certainly want to now. Dumplin’ was a fantastic contemporary, complete with a fun concept, confident heroine, and pitch-perfect writing. I’m giving it 5/5 stars, and I really want to listen to some Dolly Parton songs now…