For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’is guaranteed to steal your heart.
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.
Willowdean Dickson starts out seemingly pretty confident. She has her best friend Ellen and she doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. Then things start to go wrong as she falls for Bo and questions what he could possibly see in her. She likes him but feels ugly when they are together, even though he doesn't see her that way. She also becomes insecure in her friendship with Ellen as Ellen starts hanging out with a skinny popular girl at her new job. Will is also grieving the death of her Aunt Lucy, the one person who understood her better than anyone. Will decides to enter the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant after she finds an old entry form among her aunt's things. It starts out as a tribute and then becomes a statement and snowballs into more.
I liked this book though it takes Will awhile to get to the point of truly accepting herself. She definitely has some growing to do, not just where her own body image is concerned but how she sees others. I admired her spunk and her bravery in signing up for the pageant even though her mom didn't want her to. She proves to be a leader even if that isn't exactly what she planned on being. I felt sorry for her too as her friendship with Ellen was damaged. Both girls made some hurtful choices. I also thought Will deserved better than Bo. He isn't horrible but he has his own problems to work through and he sends mixed messages to Will. I had issues with their relationship initially because it's like he used her as a makeout buddy but didn't really let her into his life. Thankfully things get better as they both grew and learned from their mistakes.
There are lots of great secondary characters, even Will's late Aunt Lucy. I also liked the friends that Will makes at school and the drag queens who help them get ready for the pageant. I loved the Dolly Parton references even though I'm not a Dolly Parton fan myself. Overall I thought this book was a winner. Dumplin' had some good messages about body image and friendship and relationships among other things. Sometimes in novels with insecure heroines it is the love interest that helps them to find confidence or see their inner beauty and I was glad that wasn't the case here. The novel was realistic in portraying teen emotion and the difficulties of those years and wanting to fit in or find a way to be true to yourself. Will certainly was original and I liked that about her.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss