I had heard such good things about Dumplin’. With Puddin’ on the way, I finally had the impetus I needed to take this off the bookshelf! I’m disappointed it’s taken me so long, because Dumplin’ is truly heart warming.
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.
The characters in Dumplin’ were phenomenal. They make mistakes, can be selfish, and are incredibly endearing. Each of them remind us of ourselves – our insecurity, our fears, and our dreams. Willowdean is dynamic and so incredibly touching. Willowdean is a character you can relate to. In many ways she is going through a time of transition that I think we all can relate to – where compartments rise up between the moving parts of our life and where we begin to question what we thought. She is going through a time of transition where we suddenly feel out of sorts with the world, where things have changed and we aren’t sure how – except everything is.
At the same time, her journey is influenced by her own experiences as a fat girl. (The book is also an ownvoices story as well). Even thought she feels confident, at varying parts of the book, she has still internalized a lot of the rhetoric around her. It touches on how pervasive the culture we’ve grown up is as well as the true importance of representation.
At the same time it’s an incredibly moving book about a fraught mother daughter relationship, the power of friends, and the importance of following our dreams. Part of what makes Willowdean’s character so relatable is her relationship to her dreams – when the barest hint of dreams come within our grasp and the crushing fear of wanting something so much and being terrified it won’t happen – or that it could. Make sure you check out Dumplin‘ on Goodreads.