Published by Balzer + Bray Dumplin' on September 15th 2015
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.
Dumplin’ had been on my radar for sometime and I was super ecstatic when Harpercollins approved me for a review copy. Dumplin’ was a really engaging YA with a sweet romance that had me hooked from the start. While the romance is not the main core of the story it does play a big part. There’s a teeny love triangle (readers of this blog know how I feel about love triangles *grins*) and I kinda knew who would end up the winner, but I’m never confident in which direction it can go in YA.
I adored Willow. She was amazingly confident in herself but she also had her insecurities, especially when it comes to her relationships with best friend Ellen, and her crush, Bo. So many relationships are explored in Dumplin’. Willow’s relationship with her mother was fraught with tension, anger and grief after the death of Willow’s aunt Lucy. Weight is a very sore subject in the family because Willow’s Aunt was very overweight and died of a heart attack, and Willow’s mum used to be the same when she was a girl. This made Willow’s mum overly sensitive to Willow’s weight and her Aunt Lucy was the one person Willow could always go to for understanding and love. That’s not to say her mum didn’t love Willow. She did but she was so consumed by her own issues that she put them on top of Willow’s shoulders.
Then there was her friendship with El, which never wavered until Willow joined the beauty pageant. Willow was already feeling as if they were drifting apart in different directions. Willow was understandably upset when El joined the pageant and I understood why because to Willow, El had everything; the perfect body and perfect boyfriend. Willow saw the pageant as something for her only but instead of explaining this to El beforehand, she got angry and tore into El.
Then there’s Bo. Bo. Bo. Bo. Oh how I adored the romance and Bo. Jock hero Bo. The guy that’s not supposed to be attractive to Willow (in her mind) because guys like Bo don’t go for fat girls. Well, his sexy kisses sure showed Willow wrong. I adore heroes who are so into the heroine, and Bo was into Willow from the start. Bo is new to Willow’s life (they both work at the same fast-food place) and he didn’t suddenly wake up one day to see how gorgeous and funny Willow was. He was into her from the very beginning. But teenage boys will be silly and Bo neglected to tell Willow one small important fact, which made her break off with him. But the real reason was Willow’s insecurities about her weight and it was so heartbreaking to see her flinch when she felt his hands on her body.
Willow’s own insecurities meant she pushed people away and while at the end of the book, she found her way back to the people she loved, I loved the new friendships she made with the outcasts of the school, especially the road-trip they made which was so empowering and simply awesome. These were the girls people made fun of–the ones Willow felt sorry for because she knew she would never have it as bad as them. There was this refreshing quality in Willow and she was so damn funny. Not being from Texas, nonetheless, I loved the setting. The author captured what a small-town could be like; with it’s own traditions and it’s own way of life.
While I adored this book, the ending of the book seemed abrupt. There was this huge build-up to the pageant and yet it barely had page time. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the love-triangle (poor Mitch, who was a sweetheart) because Willow was so into Bo. I always end up feeling so bad for the guy who is not chosen.
All in all Dumplin’ was a fantastic book. It was funny, sad, romantic, but also happy at the same time. Willow might just be one of my favourite heroines of this year so far. The book ends on a high note and I’d love to see this author return to this world in the future.
All in all I give Dumplin a B+