Dumplin’ (Dumplin’ #1)
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Audiobook)
Genre: YA Fiction/Contemporary
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Willowdean Dickson is fat. She knows and she has no problem stating the obvious. She wears her own skin comfortably. She is also a huge Dolly Parton fan who has been nicknamed Dumplin’ by her former beauty pageant mother. .
When Willowdean begins work at a local fast food joint Harpy’s, things change. She meets a former athlete from a private school named Bo. Willowdean is instantly attracted to Bo, but she is surprised to find that the attraction is mutual. This is when things begin to become complicated for her as she struggles with how others will view their relationship as it develops.
So Willowdean does the only thing she can think of. In order to regain self-confidence, she decides to do the one thing no one expects. She enters the annual Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, shocking her friends and mother alike.
I have read a lot of negative reviews stating that Dumplin’ did not promote enough about positive body image. I want to start this review by addressing that topic first and foremost. I did not feel that Dumplin’ was supposed to be this huge, life altering read. It read as a simple story about a young woman who was learning to cope with her own insecurities as they arose. She tackled her issues and overcame them. That, I felt, was enough to consider this a truly positive read.
Now this was my first audio book. To be honest (we have reached a point in this relationship where you deserve that much), I have no clue on how to proceed with this review. So stay with me here and please exorcise some patience. I am expecting a learning curve on this one.
I want to talk characters first. They are after all, one of the shining points of Dumplin‘. They are very real. But not in that “It’s alive bawhaha” sense.
I know that makes no sense. Sorry. I had too much fun with that one. Let me try putting it this way: the characters in Dumplin’ represent a little bit in every one of us or a friend we grew up with. If you read this, you will find yourself associating at least one or two of Willodean and her friends with a childhood friend or schoolmate. We all knew someone who suffered from insecurities or struggled with body image at some point. Some of us still do. This is what makes Dumplin’ work. It takes real life and plays on it in a truly natural manner. It addresses that issue so many have struggled with. It is familiar, and familiar is comforting. Usually..
“Lucy always said that the greatest friends have nothing and everything in common all at once. Y’all girls are different versions of the same story, she would say.”
― Julie Murphy,
The setting is a small town full of teens, fast food restaurants, and one big annual beauty pageant (sounds like a bad recipe for acne and awkwardness). The Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant!! You know, it is a big deal. I was easily convinced by the author that this is a town so small, you could probably ride your bike from one side to the other in less than roughly 20 minutes. You know the kind. Everyone knows everyone. You can’t get away with anything! If you grew up in such town as I did, it was fun to read and sort of reminisce. The setting is plain and uncomplicated. It works perfectly for the story of our protagonist Dumplin’.
Now this is where I am going to pick a bit. It was good, but not great. Parts of the book began to drag on for much longer than what I deemed necessary. It slowed down so much that it began to feel as if I were reading (listening) to the same part forever. I waited and waited for the actual plot to pick up a notch, and nada.There was this beautifully intended story, and it just hit this steady pace where there was no “wow” factor. That was it.
I will openly admit, I was not a fan of the narrator for this audio book. The overall tone was a bit monotonous. That did not score any bonus points. I also found myself feeling really let down in the end. I hate saying that. I do not want you to read this review and instantly decide against the title because it had this bland ending, but for me it did. It fell like a cake being baked while a herd of elephants ran by.. flat.
Now, let me set the record straight because that last paragraph may have been abrasive. I did not dislike this book. It just wasn’t the one for me. I wanted a little more ‘upmh! I do however, think this is a very positive read, particularly for teenage girls. I am also questioning whether reading this as opposed to listening to the audio book would have made a difference. I will never know though. I just could not get past the narrator. I am so sorry whoever you are. I am giving this 3 stars for a strong, worthwhile message and great characters. I would probably recommend Dumplin’ to big fans of contemporary fiction with hints of romance, but do keep in mind this a YA read 🙂