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.
Thanks to Alice and Harper360 for my copy and for letting me take a place on the blog tour. But mostly thanks to Julie Murphy for reminding me that being fat does not determine who you are and what you are capable of.
Whilst I was reading Dumplin' over the holiday period, a few people asked me what it was about. The only description I could give was "It's about being fat, and how that's totally okay". Of course on the grand scale of things, it's so much more than that but at face value, that's what I took from it.
Like Willowdean, not only do I think of myself when I hear the word "fat" but if we're being honest, I also emotionally/mentally believe that i'm bigger than I actually am physically. For anyone who struggles with weight or physical issues you already know how debilitating it can be, especially when its you yourself who puts limitations on what you are able to achieve.
The first line that really grabbed my attention was this - 'The word fat makes people uncomfortable.'
That's really interesting to me and is absolutely true in regards to my own life. I've always viewed the word fat as just that, a word. A factual one but still just a word. 'Fat' only becomes derogatory with a tone and an intention. I've spent my whole life describing myself as fat only to have a rebuttal of 'oh but you're not!'. Which apart from being a blatant lie, just adds to the idea that 'fat' insinuates something shameful.
Dumplin' is a book that tries to take that shame and turn it into something positive and usable. Honestly? It's kind of a beautiful thing. The book is about more than body issues though. There's some real hard-hitting information in there disguised as throwaway comments. There's this great section of the book that had me nodding furiously along as I agreed with every statement;
'Having sex doesn't make you a woman. That is so freaking cliche. If you want to have sex, have sex, but don't make it this huge thing that carries all this weight. You're setting yourself up for disappointment.'
Over the years i've read so many books that try to plead a case about sex. Whether that's to abstain, that you're not mentally ready to make a decision about sex, or you should only have sex when you're a mature adult who is in love. In memory though, this is the first time a character in a YA novel has openly said - sex is just sex. Of course others will have different opinions but personally that's exactly how I feel. Sex isn't this big mystery or life changing moment. If you're looking for a way to become a woman - the chances are you already are one. Being a woman is not a direct link to sex and it is not okay to believe that.
In relation to that, I also felt like jumping off the seat every time Willowdean had a conversation with her Mother and it ended in Will being the real adult. Time and time again Will serves as a voice for women all over the world, 'News flash, Mom: a man will not cure my troubles'. AMEN, SISTER! However, that doesn't mean to say that I didn't fall completely head over heels in Book-Love with Bo *heart-in-eyes emoji*. Isn't he every girl's dream? Towards the end of the book, Will makes it clear that the only person who has ever truly judged her by her weight, is herself. I am also guilty of this. I think in YA books, about teenage girls, it can be all too easy to have the hormone-filled boys become the reason that girls have low self esteem but throughout Dumplin', Bo is consistently oblivious to her weight and genuinely cares for the girl behind the fat. Nor does she rely on Bo to discover her confidence or self esteem - she does it all herself. It really is inspiring.
Dumplin' has been going the rounds on blogs and social media for quite some time now and honestly, I think it deserves the praise immensely. Despite the subject matter and the learning curve that I was on whilst reading the book, it was never preachy or eye-rolling. Dumplin' is completely relatable for all girls. Obviously, those of us with weight issues will find a connection to Willowdean but it doesn't end there. There is so much in this book and there is something for everyone.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy is out TODAY!
p.s) If anyone knows the answer to this, was that really a reference to The Yellow Wallpaper? (pg.139)