Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy – 4/5

Title: Dumplin

Author: Julie Murphy

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean 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 Teen Blue Bonnet 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.

Review:

Dumplin’ is such a cringe worthy novel, but in the best possible way.  Julie Murphy captures the struggle of the teenage experience beautifully, and her writing shines.

One thing that readers must know about this novel, is it is not about a “brave” fat girl who enters a beauty pageant; instead, it is about a girl who doesn’t see herself as worthless because of how she looks and how she tries to prove others wrong.  The book beautifully highlights how Willowdean does feel like the sidekick friend in her life, and how she wants to break away and be her own person.  It is also about how she has never felt self conscious about herself until she becomes involved with a boy.  It is during this time that she begins to see herself how others see her, and she doesn’t like what she sees.

Growing up, I was a “fat girl”, so reading this book was extremely difficult for me.  It captured the mind of a girl who begins to see herself how others see her, and it is heartbreaking.  However, I enjoyed how Willowdean, and the side characters, evolved throughout the novel.  Murphy sent a message through her writing that showed the reader how everyone is self conscious about something in their life, and how we should just try to love ourselves and understand that others are going through exactly what we are feeling.  This book is essential for middle school – high school students to read, and I know that it would have helped me had it been released when I was still in school.  Murphy made all of her characters likable and unlikable throughout the novel, and through those flaws and reality her book won my heart.  She didn’t force you to like Willowdean simply because she was the underdog, and forced you to get to know her before making any assumptions on her character.

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