Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Title: Dumplin'
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Published Date: 16 September 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

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.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine— Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
(summary from Goodreads)

Dumplin' is a heartfelt and joyful story, one that is an absolute must read!

All the yes's in the world and so much love with a cherry on top for Dumplin'! This books, it has me a-gushing! An awesome MC with attitude, small town Texas, quirky characters, Dolly Parton, friendship and romance - Dumplin' is full of fun. But that's not all. Murphy also portrays loss, bullying and issues of body image, and she does it beautifully. This is a story that is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking and hilarious. I truly loved every moment of it and just want more and more. Dumplin' is a great contemporary YA and there's no doubt it has a little something for everyone who enjoys this genre. As someone who has been a fat chick for most of my life, this book had that little something extra for me. It spoke to me. There were so many moments where Murphy 'got it' - and not just about being fat, which is even better. But this is a focus because books like this are unfortunately few and far between. And man, how I'd have loved to have a book like it on hand when I was growing up.

What really worked for me is that Dumplin' isn't just a 'fat girl gets the hot guy' story or wholly even body positive 100% of the time. It's nuanced. Willowdean's relationships are complex and messy. She strings a guy along and is as harshly judgmental of others as her mother is of her. She's flawed. She's human. And so she learns. It's through these lessons that Dumplin' soars. Not everything in this book is perfectly resolved. At the end I was slightly disappointed, as it felt abrupt to me. But now I appreciate it. Willowdean's relationship with her mother isn't exactly changed, her relationship with Bo isn't tied up in a neat ribbon, even the beauty pageant is technically left wanting - but that's all kind of the point. Dumplin' isn't about the happily ever after - it's about trying for it. It's about giving it a go and living life to the fullest, no matter what.

It's also about accepting people for who they are and Murphy highlights this through an array of spectacular characters. Willowdean is one feisty MC. She's hilarious and frustrating, and I felt for her every step of the way. Even at her worst and most selfish, when I wanted to shake her, she resonated with me because she's genuine. No one is perfect. Willowdean's relationships are the heart of Dumplin'. Her grief for her Aunt and the friction with her mother is aching. I really liked her best friend, Ellen. Their dynamic changed but they're still, as Willowdean says, "good for each other". Ellen is like the Queen of acceptance, an all round nice person, and I enjoyed how she justified her friendship with Callie even though Willowdean, and even we, don't necessarily like or agree with it. I found it interesting - and kind of terrible - how Willowdean treated Millie, Amanda and Hannah, but then got to know them and appreciate who they are and what they bring to her life. I love that everything Murphy wants readers to understand, the message she's illustrating, isn't something Willowdean already knows and is teaching, but is something she herself had to experience and learn to understand. As for the romance of Dumplin', I'm all for it. I adored both Bo and Mitch. Bo and Willowdean's chemistry is swoon inducing and I loved that he never felt he needed to explain his feelings - he likes her. The end. Mitch is adorable and I hate that Willowdean hurt him. Still, not everything works out and not all couples are meant to be. There's no denying chemistry. Willowdean can have Bo and I'll take Mitch, okay?

Dumplin' is an honest and emotional story, with characters that will capture your heart. You'll laugh and cry, hurt and hope. This is a book so full of sass and heart, it has to be read. 



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