When I read the blurb for Julie Murphy’s new YA novel, I couldn’t help but think: Fabulous. Another “cheesy” story about an insecure but clearly beautiful girl who falls in love with a boy as they go through Romeo-and-Juliet-esque hoops but ultimately end up together. Well fellow YA nuts, I’ve been wrong before and I’m very happy to be wrong now.
‘Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is set in Clover City, Texas where sweet tea and beauty queens reign supreme. It tells the story (and growing pains) of 16-year old Willowdean Dickson, a plus-sized, Dolly Parton-obsessed teenager who has mastered the art of sarcasm and dry wit.
Will – or Dumplin’ as nicknamed by her beauty queen mother – always took her ‘larger than life’ exterior with stride [“If you want a bikini body, put a bikini on your body!”]. Mom won the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant once and she never let anyone forget it, least of all Will. And despite mom’s numerous diet plans for herself and for her daughter, Will just never felt the pressure to change for anybody. She’s fabulous that way.
That is until she meets one Private School Bo, a co-worker at Harpy’s Diner. And hurrah-hurrah, the feeling is mutual! A few conversations and red suckers later, Will and Bo enter into a series of cheesy capers behind the dumpster of the diner where they both work.
And although Bo is clearly attracted to her, Will (like every girl I know) plays the fool instead. She just can’t come to terms with the fact that Bo – former jock Bo, Private School Bo – likes her for *gasp* who she is. So going against her better judgment, she decides to try and win the Miss Clover City Beauty Pageant. At first to justify and validate Bo’s reciprocated feelings for her and later on, to liberate herself from all the labels she’s faced.
Armed with her new-found friends (–Dumplin’ is the patron saint of societal misfits after all), she goes through hell and high-water, all the while keeping one eye fixed on the prize and another on the people who don’t believe she can do it.
As a girl who’s gone through her fair share of YA books, there’s no denying that ‘Dumplin’ shines. Although some moments are cliché (making out with a cute boy behind a dumpster because your relationship is kept a secret from the world? Going on an all-girl road trip to see a drag show in some obscure location and making lifelong friendships with the queens down South?), the honest dialogues, peppered with the protagonist’s feisty personality makes this novel a true page-turner loaded with the feel-good factor we all love in plus-sized amounts.
Because in the end, you don’t have to be skinny to deserve the good things. And to that I say, amen and hallelujah.
Dumplin’ is available at Fully Booked for all you beauty queen rebels.
AnnaWhy works behind the scenes for international theatrical shows. At night, she likes to sing songs from musicals and laugh at the members of her family, and on occasion with them.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not expressly reflect the views of Fully Booked. That said, we love our authors anyway.]