There was so much hype surrounding the release of this novel back in 2015. Instagram (bookstagram) was flooded with photos and praises for Dumplin’, so naturally I was simultaneously intrigued and a little wary, as one tends to be when a particular novel is overhyped. But eventually the hype died down and it was only when I found Dumplin’ on sale at Bargain Books that I decided to buy it and give it a try.
I can honestly say that I understand why this book was so hyped up when it was first released. It has a unique, diverse and relatable cast of characters that constantly reminds you of how damaging and messed-up society’s idealistic perception of beauty is.
The protagonist, Willowdean, is a confident plus-size girl who quite honestly doesn’t care what the world thinks of her. When Will develops a crush for former private school jock, for the first time Will finds herself questioning her own worth. Despite Bo’s evident interest in her, she just can’t understand why Bo wants to be with a self-proclaimed fat girl. To every else Will seems confident, comfortable and happy but throughout the novel we witness Will’s internal struggle with her weight and confidence. This, coupled with the expectations of her ex-beauty queen mom who keeps trying to convince her to try various diets so that she can lose some weight, leads Will to entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant. This sparks a sense of ‘revolution’ amongst a bunch of ‘misfits’ Will has recently befriended and together the girls enter the pageant because why shouldn’t they be able to?
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is not often that you read about a plus-size protagonist and I am so thankful that this novel did this so well. I found the novel and the characters extremely relatable. We all know that no matter how much you build up a confident exterior persona, chances are that you have your own personal and internal struggles that no one else is aware of, you’re human after all. The way Julie Murphy portrayed Willowdean’s internal struggles was so authentic and honest. This novel constantly challenges society’s beauty standards and emphasises the importance of loving yourself before you can truly allow others to love you.
Dumplin’ also addresses the different kinds of friendship teenage girls can have and how the dynamics of those friendships change as one grows up and matures. I loved the way the relationship between Will and her best friend develops by the end of the novel, as well as the way Will’s friendships with the other girls becomes so much more than Will intended it to be. The supporting characters are strong and complex; each one of them play an integral role in Will rediscovering who she is and completely accepting, embracing and loving what she finds.
It was a fun and light read while still addressing important and serious topics, one you could most likely read in one sitting. If you’re into Young Adult Contemporary and are looking for a sweet, yet thought provoking read, then give Dumplin’ a try!
Reviewed by: Abdeah Davis
I am a twenty-four-year-old English Literature postgraduate with a passion for the creative arts and literature. I am intrigued by Dragons (and cats – same thing really), magic, books and piercings. I suffer from bibliomania and buy more books than I can read. This feeds my obsession of photographing books and fangirling about them on social media. I also dabble in a bit of painting, sketching and crafts every now and again.