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.
Miss Riki’s Review:
This was one of those books that I really could’ve used when I was in my more formative high school, and even college years, but that still resonated with me on a very deep level even today. I fell in love with Willowdean and found her to be the most refreshingly honest and unflinching Young Adult protagonist I’ve read in a long time.
This book is all sorts of body positive in all the ways that really count, and I found Willowdean’s honest look at her body and what it means to be fat so refreshing. (Just to be clear, Willodean doesn’t use the word fat to be self-deprecating or derogatory about her body in any way, and neither do I). For I think the first time in YA lit, I identified with a fully rendered fat protagonist who is unapologetic about who she is and where she fits into the world around her. Does she have moments where she feels uncomfortable in her own skin? Absolutely. But when it comes right down to it, she is proud of who she is, and I love that with all the love there is.
This book is not just about what it means to be fat, however. It is also a beautiful look at female friendship and what it means to be a good friend. I loved Willowdean and El’s friendship and my heart broke for them when a rift comes between them and awkwardness settles in. The moment they finally make up gave me all sorts of feelings and reminded me what it was like to be odds with your very best friend in the whole world. Feeling, I tell you.
And the romance- so perfect. The two boys in Willowdean’s life are into her because she’s smart and sweet and they find her beautiful, and I loved seeing her get her happy ending.
This book had everything I could ask for in a smart, contemporary young adult novel. Julie Murphy’s writing is spot on and she captured perfectly the emotions of being young and conflicted about friendship and romance. But when all is said and done, she also gave us a heroine to root for and I absolutely adore Willowdean.