Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
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.
This book is a hypocritical mess. There are three main things wrong with it:
1. It was boring
2. It’s not body-positive for a book that’s about body positivity
3. A love triangle (boo! hiss!)
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of this book? I would say it does. This book is vastly inferior to the spectacular Future Perfect, which sends the message of being comfortable in your own body in a far better way.
The main character in this book is fat. She is also an insecure, judgmental snit. Look, I get that characters aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect (gasp, horror, etc.) but characters should elicit sympathy in a reader and it is supremely hard to do that when the main character is constantly judging others whom she deem to be lesser and uglier and fatter than she is.
I’m fat, but Millie’s the type of fat that requires elastic waist pants because they don’t make pants with buttons and zippers in her size. Her eyes are too close together and her nose pinches up at the end. She wears shirts with puppies and kittens and not in an ironic way.
It’s hard to send a message of body positivity and acceptance in others when the main character tends to skinny-shame, however contrite she feels about it.
The main character is an insecure mess, and not in a good way.
Millie and Amanda together are basically one giant moving target that says MAKE FUN OF US.
Amanda’s legs are uneven, so she wears these thick corrective shoes that make her look like Frankenstein. (At least according to Patrick Thomas.) When we were kids and she didn’t have her shoes yet, Amanda just limped around, her hips swiveling up and down with each step. She never seemed bothered, but that didn’t stop people from staring. The nickname thing is pretty lame if you think about it. Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster.
I don’t sympathize with her. I want her to grow the fuck up and get over it. Again, a book should make me feel for the character; the only thing the interestingly named Willowdean does for me is grate on my nerves. It’s not that I have a problem with her insecurity, it’s that it is a constant part of her life and her narrative for a book that promises me a tough girl. It’s that she is slyly judgmental against all the skinny pageant girls.
Cliques of girls sit at round tables with white tablecloths, the same ones my mother ironed in our living room last night. The legacy girls with mothers and sisters who have been crowned. Athletes trying to beef up their college résumés. The cheer table, which consists of anyone who does anything at a football game that doesn’t include a ball. And the theater and the choir girls, of course. All of them wear dresses. Like, Easter dresses. Precious little garden dresses with matching cardigans. While we are wearing nothing more than jeans and T-shirts.
Because she’s so superior, being normal. Being fat.
Willow is a supreme bitch to her beautiful, slim best friend, El. When Willow decides to send a message and enter a pageant (with odds of zero in her favor), El decides to join forces with her. United we stand, right? Wrong. Having her best friend with her is the last thing Willow wants.
“Have you thought about the fact that I feel as out of place here as you do?”
“You have to back out. El, for me, you’ve got to. Let me have this one thing.”
“What? Let you have what? You can’t pick and choose who joins the revolution.” She makes air quotes as she says “revolution.”
I hear the logic in her voice. I recognize the truth there. But if El entered, she could really win. And that’s why she could ruin this.
It’s like El said. You can’t pick and choose your message.
Furthermore, nothing happens in this book. Willow goes about her life. Willow meets people. Willow talks to people. Willow has a crush. All that’s fine and good in the hands of a good writer, because after all, the majority of contemporaries are just about people going about their lives. The writing in this book does brilliant to make this book shine. You could skip half the book and not miss much. Most of the book isn’t worth reading anyway.