10 Oct 2015

Review: Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

My experience with Dumplin':

I have to say that my experience with this book was a bit of a roller coaster ride. I'll be honest, I didn't go in expecting very much, I'd heard a lot about the book from people lucky enough to receive ARCs and a fair amount was less than positive. Basically, the feeling I got from this book was off and the reason was that I'd heard this girl only enters a beauty pageant because she gets a boyfriend who changes how she feels about herself... But maybe I'm not reading the same book as some people. And I know, I know, you're not supposed to read reviews (the way I did, anyway) about books you're looking forward to because they warp your opinion of those books before you've even had a chance to read page one for yourself, but I did, and this is the result.

I'll admit, I had a very intense love/hate relationship with the main character Willowdean (or Will, as her friends call her. Dumplin' to her mother). Within the first few chapters I had already decided that I didn't like her and that she was mean... The way she talked about her friends and family kind of upset me sometimes. She referred to a classmate as "a different kind of fat" but then, later on, she says something like "If it's not your body, it's not yours to comment on" but all Willowdean seems to do is comment on the bodies of other people.

Now, this already seems like I hated the book and yes, I disliked Will a lot in the beginning, but it quickly became apparent that she was a very 'real' character. She was insanely flawed. She says and does things that I could actually see people doing, it didn't seem as though she was overly nice because the book was written in 1st person, and if she was mean then the author might have to deal with people accusing her of sharing the same thoughts as her characters. It was something that I appreciated.

I feel as though it's essential to mention a very important theme in this book, body positivity, which is incredibly hard to come by (I want to say "in teenagers" but let's be real here) in any women. Willowdean is not in denial that she's overweight, at one point she stresses that "[fat] isn't a cuss word" and it reminded me of the J.K.Rowling quote "is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?" The only thing was, that sometimes it seemed so incredibly forced. That turned out to be just another highlight in the book. Of course it's forced, when you're trying to create a positive atmosphere, you drown out those who are mean or those who disagree. It's discovered that Willowdean isn't actually as comfortable with herself as she made out to be.

One thing I loved about this book was that all the minor characters had background information that made them all important, no minor characters were left behind, we got to find out why characters acted the way they did and I think that that's another important theme in Dumplin'. You didn't get this background information as justification for any wrongdoing that the character committed, but because that's what actually happens in life. If you're parents teach you to be overly optimistic and mollycoddle you, then yes, that's going to reflect in your personality.

I did enjoy following Will on her journey, this book wasn't just about being body positive, it was about relationships (and coming to terms with how you really feel), friendships, love, loss, and family. Of course there were flaws, the writing was sometimes struggled to keep my attention and the book dragged out a bit in the middle, but it tied up in the end. I want to go further into what this book was really about, but honestly, I don't want to give too much away. The synopsis should give you enough information without me spoiling everything for you.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes a Young Adult novel that has a bit of everything, that is truthful. I enjoyed this book, even though I was convinced I wouldn't and that it lost me here and there. But overall, I appreciated Willowdean as a character, I loved that her weight was never specified, I liked being able to relate to some of the things she felt but strongly disagree with some of the things she said or did. I think it's important to remember that having characters with flaws isn't a sign of bad writing, it's just a reflection of real people. I, myself, am full of flaws, some that I've come to terms with and others that I'd rather ignore, but I'm sure that you're the same. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars (★★★☆☆)

Where you can find the book:

Book Depository // Barnes and Noble // Amazon US // Amazon UK // Amazon Australia

About the author:

Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she's not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie's debut novel.

Keeping up with the author:

Websites // Goodreads // Twitter // Pinterest // Tumblr // Instagram // Youtube 

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