I have been a fan of Julie Murphy ever since I got an advanced copy of Side Effects May Vary. Julie's characters have the confidence I wish I had in high school, yet they are deeply flawed, which makes it so easy to identify with her characters. I knew as soon as I read the synopsis of Dumplin' that this was a book that I needed to own, and I knew before I even read the first line that this book was going to be one that would wreck me just because I knew that I was going to see myself in the character, Willowdean. I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
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 pageants--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.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine--Dumplin' is guaranteed to steal your heart. (Goodreads)
My Bookish Thoughts:
As I set here and listen to Dolly Parton's Jolene on repeat, I can say without a doubt that this was an excellent novel! Where there were times that Side Effects May Vary made me realize the darkness of my own thoughts, because of Alice's crazy sense of revenge, Dumplin' made me realize my own vulnerabilities. This book was so wonderful to read, just to be reminded that I'm not crazy and that other people understand my personal issues with weight. To say that I identified with Willowdean is putting it so mildly. This book had me in tears because of its poignant message.
I think what I found most truthful was the fact that she fell in love with a boy named Bo who was a basketball player and well-muscled, yet didn't completely fit with the stereotype, and he loved her back...but it was what Willowdean struggled with that I found to be the foundation of this book: The acceptance of herself. The word 'fat' has been deemed by society to be this curse word, and society itself has tried to hide this idea that being fat is the opposite of beauty, but that's not true. Even further, this idea of 'fatness; keeps the person from doing what they want to do for fear of being ridiculed.
This book was riddled with astounding quotes that could make anyone empathize with these issues. It doesn't matter if you are fat or skinny, if you have knobby knees or thunder thighs, or if you think you are beautiful or ugly. No matter what size you are or how you think you are beautiful or ugly. No matter what size you are or how you think you look, this book is for you.
"This reminder of who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we're all chasing."[this quote should be checked against the final copy]
I found this book just utterly stunning. I think Julie Murphy was able to write so truthfully about this subject because she has walked in those shoes, and to me, that means the world just because I know that this book isn't spouting the normal BS of "if you're skinnier, your life will be happier and you will get the guy." Instead, she says "F* that! What can't I be fat and get the guy at the same time while I participate in a beauty pageant and expose the world's standard of beauty for the BS that it is."
This book was empowering. And amazing. And inspiring. And so very, very true. Everyone should read this book.
If this book were to come with a warning label, it would look a lot like this:
Beware, this is the epitome of your teenager years in all its terrible, embarrassing, and horrific glory. This book will have you crying tears of understanding, and it will provide you with inspiration to accept yourself as you are.
I gave this book 5 stars.