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. – Goodreads
Before I went into Dumplin’ I had heard great things. Great things. So expectations were a bit high about this book and here’s the thing. I was not remotely disappointed. I even related to this book far more than I expected to. From Willowdean stating “I’m fat. I’m happy. I’m insecure. I’m bold” (ARC, pg 371) to her relationship with her friends: I got Willowdean.
I only wish I had Willowdean in my life when I wasn’t so happy or bold. My friends tend to comment on the fact I wear loud and bold clothing. From dresses that have horses on them to cardigans that have seahorses, I own them and I love them. But it took me awhile to get here. For the longest time I wore what fit, even if I hated it and then one day I realized screw that. Wear what makes me happy. And you know what, I am. I am happy, but I also have insecure days, because I’m human.
What really drew me into Dumplin’ was the story between Willowdean and her BFF, Ellen, or El. The two of them are thick as thieves but they are also slowly growing apart something that worries both of them and worried me as a reader. It killed me not to skip ahead to see if everything would be okay between them. I was so invested in the friendship, because I got it. One of my closest and dearest friends got married and although I like to keep my shit together, in my head I thought, “What if this is the moment? What if this is where she realizes she doesn’t need me anymore. What if this is it?” While Willowdean and El were growing apart because of work, relationships, and general anger it was still completely relateable and at one point made me weep. (This was made more fun by the fact I cannot breathe currently. Plus crying? I was a mess.) Please note my BFF getting married changed nothing besides the fact she’s snarkier now? But I feel like that was all my fault anyway. Plus she’ll read this and be shocked I didn’t tell her in person. It’s cool. She loves me anyway.
Willowdean learned a lot throughout this novel. She learned you can put people in neat little boxes and expect them to stay there. She learned that growth is okay and that you will get hurt. She learned her Aunt Lucy will always be there for here, even in little, small ways. Williowdean learned to be true to herself.
I went into Dumplin’ with high expectations and in the day it took me to read this book I wasn’t disappointed.