Book Review: Dumplin’

As y’all know, I have embarked on a Bucket List journey for my 25th year. I hope to read at least 12 books before my 26th birthday (one for each month) and write a review for each one. I haven’t made an official list of what to read, but I am hoping to read as many books outside of my usual tastes as possible. I work at a public library, so I’m certainly not in short supply of any genre.

For the month of June, I read Julie Murhpy’s Dumplin’. I had heard a great deal about this book since its release, and it was recommended to me by a coworker at the library. Dumplin’ presents to us the story of Willowdean, a self-proclaimed “fat” teenager in Texas. I was immediately intrigued and, as a full-figured Southern girl myself, was eager to read about Willowdean and her life.

Willowdean’s mother is the organizer and chairperson for the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, the most important annual event in the small Texas town. Willowdean and her best friend Ellen have never cared too much about the pageant and instead spend their days listening to Dolly Parton records. Willowdean’s aunt Lucy loved Dolly and passed her love and obsession on to Will before she passed. After a cute boy at work shows interest in Will, things get complicated. She decides to enter the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant–to the shock of her mother and friends. When other unlikely pageant contestants follow Will’s lead and enter, she grows more unsure of her decision.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I just couldn’t. I found Willowdean unrelatable and, frankly, rather unlikable. She was rude and hurtful to her friends and to the boy who shows true interest in her. Yet, we as readers are meant to sympathize with and relate to Willowdean and her plight. I just couldn’t get past the awkward love triangle, the judgmental and angsty narrator, and the oftentimes cringey dialogue.

Dumplin’ isn’t all bad, however. There are some genuine nuggets of excellent writing, as well as some awesome messages for young readers. I greatly appreciate the confidence Will had in herself in her body as well as the way she handled bullies, including her own mother.

Overall, Dumplin’ is not a book I would recommend to readers like myself, but I might be more likely to recommend it to my library patrons who enjoy romantic YA reads.

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