by Julie Murphy
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (September 15, 2015)
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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.Willowdean Dickson has always been comfortable in her own skin...until a gorgeous guy likes her back. Now, when insecurities are rising to the surface, the only way Will can combat them is by joining the one event that places her front and center: The Miss Clover City beauty pageant.
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.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Willowdean is my favorite female main character ever. She's so flawed and I loved her for it. She has a lot of ups and downs with her body image and this is so refreshing and relatable. Even though this book encourages you to love yourself regardless of your physical appearance, it doesn't do so by undermining the struggles that come with it. Will's journey is not easy but it is brutally honest. I loved every second of it.
The three big themes in this novel are family, love, and friendship. I loved the family dynamic in this novel. Willowdean's mom is a complex character (which is not typical with YA books) and their relationship is very realistic and slightly tumultuous. Even though the romance has a purpose and moves the story forward, I wasn't a big fan of it. I felt like the love interest wasn't one of the strongest characters so I was unable to connect with the romance because it. This was not the case for the friendship. I loved the way friendship drama was featured in this book. I don't want to give away too much but every friendship in this book made my heart sing.
The only thing that I didn't love about this novel was the ending. I felt like the pacing was nice and slow for about 99% of the book and then it picked up dramatically. I'm a little disappointed that the last few pages covered so much ground but I enjoyed the rest of the book so much that this wasn't a big deal.
Dumplin' delivers such a important message, one that I want to shout from a rooftop and share with as many people as possible. I think anyone, regardless of age or gender, will benefit from it. I definitely did.