By Kristin Milks, a librarian and Collection Development Specialist with OverDrive
Put on your Dolly records, get out your tiaras, and make sure your pageant smiles are plastered on your face because Julie Murphy’s new book Dumplin’ is here.
Willowdean is a Texas teen who is confident and sure of herself, her friendship with Ellen, her love of Dolly Parton, and her extra curvy body. But things start to change in Willowdean’s world. First there’s Bo, the private school boy she works with. He’s handsome and quiet, and he is into Will, but his attention starts making her question her body. Then Ellen starts hanging out with a new girl who is irritating and rude to Will, and she feels their friendship start to strain. In the midst of it all, Will decides to take back her confidence and show the world that she may be fat, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be a queen, a pageant queen that is! With her mother, a former beauty queen and the head of the local pageant, nipping at her heels, boy troubles, drag queens, and a new group of rag-tag pageant contestants, Will has a lot on her plate this year.
While reading this book, I told some friends that Willowdean is my new spirit animal. She is a great role model with her love of who she is even when the world (and her mother) tell her to change her body so she can be happy, even though she’s already happy. She’s fierce, not letting the school bully get in her way or make her or her friends feel bad. She calls people out on their baloney and when her friends do the same to her, she listens. The secondary characters were great as well. Her group of three other “misfits” who enter the pageant start becoming close and their relationships enhance the book.
This book was exactly what I wanted! Its light hearted, yet tackles some issues that everybody deals with, namely the loss of a loved one, self-perception, body image, and bullying. What I really loved about this book is that it didn’t over dramatize everything. It felt real because it wasn’t over the top, full of angst, or melodramatic. I also enjoyed that this was a book about women sticking together for the most part. A beauty pageant invokes images of hair pulling and gossip, but Julie Murphy stayed away from that stereotype, instead showing these girls rallying behind each other. SISTERHOOD!
If you’re thinking you need a great YA read or you need to recommend a YA read, I HIGHLY suggest Dumplin’. It’s a great read-alike to Eleanor and Park and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. Oh and just try NOT listening to ‘Jolene’ when reading this book. I dare you.