Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this novel as a part of the BRTD Bookclub! Come join us for monthly YA reads and discussion :)
Those of you who follow my reviews know that contemporary is a genre that I never get particularly excited about. However, I have recently had amazing luck with contemporary novels, so the times might be a-changin'! Books like All the Bright Places and Frankie struck a chord with me, and now so has Dumplin'. I was pondering why these books in particular resonated with me, and I think it's because they deal with important issues in a light(ish) way. There's a lesson, but you don't feel like you're being taught.
Anyway, I digress. Dumplin' makes a lot of great points about body image, which is an issue I have always struggled with, and perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so much. This is the kind of book I wish had existed when I was a 15-year-old, because Willowdean is a perfectly realistic combination of confident and insecure. Some days she does not care what people think of her appearance, and other days she cares far too much. Some days she defends people who are mocked, and other days she is just as judgmental as the bullies. That, in a nutshell, is what I liked about her. Protagonists that are either totally likable or totally hateable (I'm making up words now) feel unrealistic, because nobody is that one-sided.
While I definitely loved the body image aspects of this novel, Dumplin' was more than a little fluffy. The plot itself did not really excite me - "unconventionally attractive woman enters beauty pageant" has been done before. Even the romance aspects of this novel were a little 'meh'. Most of the characters (besides Will herself) were not that interesting. I enjoyed hearing Aunt Lucy's story, however. I think everyone has at least one image issue that causes self-doubt and stops us doing what we love, so this made me instantly relate to her.
It's hard to define exactly what it was that I liked about this book, beyond the body image stuff. I think it was the realism. Murphy never glossed over Will's self-doubt, and she did not end the book with everyone holding hands and suddenly accepting fat people. I especially enjoyed the ending because it was so open-ended - anything else would have been a disservice to Willowdean's character.
Overall, this was a light read with a poignant and realistic representation of body image issues. I'd recommend it to anyone who cares about this issue, and does not particularly mind if the plot is secondary to that.
View all my reviews