Today I have the pleasure of presenting a review for a wonderful book on its release day, as part of the blog tour. I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion or rating in any way. Thank you to Harper360.
Publisher: HarperCollins (Balzer and Bray)
Release Date: 28th January 2016
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.
Simply put, Dumplin' is perfect and poignant.
When I first heard about this story, my thought was 'YA Miss Congeniality'. While there are a few minor similarities, Dumplin' is so much more.
The story of Willowdean Dickson is a very relatable one, in many ways. Not only does Dumplin' contain the usual YA issues of love, life and growing up, Murphy also tackles the more serious issues of body image and grief.
Willowdean is generally comfortable in her own skin and so her primary motivation for entering the pageant is her deceased Aunt Lucy. Will and Lucy were extremely close and it's clear throughout the book how much she misses her. Willowdean doesn't just enter the competition in her Aunt's memory though; she's fulfilling Lucy's unrealised dream and proving that there isn't a generic template for being a beauty queen. I think it's a part of the story that anyone who's ever lost someone will be able to relate to, and I for one found myself wearing Will's shoes, so to speak. Dumplin' is in part about how Will deals with her grief, an aspect that is universal.
The main focus of the book however is on self-confidence and body image. Will's not the only one who decides to enter the pageant. She's joined by three friends - Amanda, Millie and Hannah - all of whom suffer from ridicule for different reasons. Together and against all odds, our heroes set out to prove to the world that there is no perfect person.
Honestly, the characters are what made the story for me. They are each so different - unique - and relatable, each with their own issues and motivations, that I found myself cheering for them all in one capacity or another. They not only inhabit the story, they bring it to life. They are each strong and powerful, with something to learn from; a lesson to be told. Dumplin' is a very modern story with many messages from 'embracing change' to 'standing up for yourself', all collated in a single statement:
Be who you are.
As Willowdean says: "The criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it."
Change for yourself, if that's what you want, but don't change for anyone else. You're perfect simply being you.
As I said, Dumplin' is perfect and poignant. It is a wonderfully entertaining and engaging story that has a deeper meaning for all readers who seek it, no matter their age. I cannot fault it in any way and so Dumplin' receives the first 5 star rating of 2016. It was an absolute pleasure to read and I can only hope that 2016 releases continue in such a fantastic fashion.
I hope you enjoyed my review of Dumplin'. Check out the next stop on the tour at Loaded Shelves later today, and follow the rest of the tour on the dates below.