Go big or go home is the line that graces the cover of DUMPLIN’ and let’s just say the latest YA from Julie Murphy takes that advice to heart.
Willowdean Dickson is fierce and fearless, or so she seems to those around her. She’s always been comfortable as plus sized (and never insecure around either her gorgeous BF or her mother, the former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet).
But when she falls for the hot new guy at work, and he seems to like her right back, she starts having doubts like never before. When things get complicated with him, and she can’t seem to get over the death of her beloved aunt (who passed due to complications from extreme weight), Willowdean needs something to refresh her swagger.
So why not enter the local beauty pageant? You know, the one her mother won when she was younger. The one that pretty much shuts down the entire county this time every year. The one traditionally filled with contestants who have a certain kind of “look.”
Traditionally, the pageant doesn’t include girls obsessed with Dolly Parton and red suckers. Or those NOT obsessed with their dress size. And that’s what makes it perfect.
Unwittingly inspiring a group of other girls to become contestants too, Willowdean decides to embrace her role as beauty queen because, dang it, she deserves to be in that pageant as much as anyone else. Sure, she and her friends aren’t “typical,” and the whole thing might raise some eyebrows, but it might just open some minds, as well.
Willowdean is a force of nature who proves to the reader (and herself) that everyone doesn’t (and shouldn’t) fit into someone else’s preconceived parameters. And, pardon the spoiler, but don’t read this if you want a “she lost 100 pounds and lived happily ever after” resolution. Because, thank God, this isn’t about that. DUMPLIN’ gets to the heart of the matter, and while Willowdean is certainly a sympathetic character, you never once feel sorry for her. She’s in control of her destiny, comfortable in her own skin, and will no doubt be an inspiration for many readers as well.
I fell in love with Julie Murphy’s writing with her debut SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, and this second novel is just as good. Fans of Rainbow Rowell and John Green will feel right at home between Murphy’s pages. With the movie rights already snatched up, I'm confident Julie Murphy will be a writer you’ll be hearing about a lot -- and I look forward to seeing where she takes us next.