Author: Julie Murphy
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.
If you’re reading this, then I can almost guarantee that you’ve been bombarded by all the high expectations of beauty, female or male. Maybe you’re lucky enough that it didn’t affect you, in which case, congratulations and never feel ashamed for having good self esteem; chances are, though, you’ve had your low days where you’ve measured yourself against the flawless, photoshopped people in the media. If that’s the case, then this book might work for you.
I think the main reason I didn’t love this book is because I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. I thought that Willowdean would be this super-inspiring role model who loves herself no matter what. That’s not to say that Willowdean isn’t confident – it’s simply that she’s realistic. Normally, this would be awesome, and for many readers, this is awesome, but I was expecting a protagonist who never has super-low self-esteem days, and that simply wasn’t the case. This is one case where realism failed for me because I wanted a book about a fabulously confident girl who joins a beauty pageant to put people in their place and prove them wrong, not to heal her own self-esteem.
And some of that is my fault, obviously – the summary clearly says that she begins her doubt herself after her relationship with Bo starts. I question where she ever really had that super-high confidence, though – she didn’t have horrible self-esteem at the beginning, but it was only average, and I expected her self-confidence to blow me away. I wanted to focus on the beauty pageant aspect of things, seeing her get into that and generally being a YA version of Miss Congeniality that always has a super-body-positive message.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the romance – Bo just didn’t interest me as a love interest too much, so seeing Willowdean’s confidence begin to tank as a result of the relationship really didn’t work for me. There was a minor romance that Will got into in order to kind of distract herself that I liked a lot more, but Bo is the Love Interest, and I just couldn’t get behind that as much as I should have.
I know that this all sounds quite negative, but that’s simply because complaints tend to stick around longer than the other, solid aspects of a story. Ultimately, I did enjoy Dumplin’, and in many ways, Will is a great protagonist to get behind. If you come into this book expecting a protagonist who always loves her body no matter what and beauty pageant fun, then you might be a little disappointed like I was, but if you want a realistic look at a larger girl trying to keep up her confidence in spite of everything, then this just might be the book for you.