by Elaine Zapanta

I found Dumplin’ on Goodreads, displayed under the Recommendations sections. Now, I’m not one to read a book based on algorithm, but I saw the cover and it made me curious. I hit the button and here we are.

THE STORY

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.  Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

I rarely see books about people of size and when I do, the fat character is almost always either:

  1. a comic relief, or
  2. living a miserable life

So when I found that Dumplin’ is a fresh take on what it’s like to be fat and be comfortable with it, I appreciated that so much. Julie Murphy knows and understands fat girl problems. Here’s an example:

“Hannah may not get what it feels to wonder if you’re going to fit into a chair with armrests or how anytime a floor creaks beneath your weight, everyone looks at you like you’re about to break the entire building. She might not get what it’s like to walk into a mall and know that 90 percent of the clothes won’t fit you or that even thinking about going to a buffet is a joke waiting to happen.”

(That and also when a boy shook Will’s confidence and had her asking herself if she was even good enough for a relationship. Scary how accurately portrayed the feelings were.)

I’ve been fat all my life. It’s one of the few constant things about me and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Growing up fat, it did not bother me that I looked “different.” I was not bullied in school and had awesome friends. My childhood, which I can say is better than what others imagine to be, was great. It helped me accept and love my self for who I am, up to this very day.

But times now are different. People are a lot meaner now, particularly on the Internet. They would cloak their judgment with faux concern about your health. They would email you endless lists of fad diets every chance they get. They would pick on your insecurities little by little until you believe them yourself.

And if you are not strong enough, eventually you will crack. The confidence you gained for years can be completely wiped off with a five-minute YouTube video of a (often times faux) blonde, skinny woman talking down a fat family in an airport. The most random things—blogs, social media, billboards, a friend—will trigger your anxiety and it will suck BIG TIME.

Sure, Will is not perfect. She has insecurities and she can sometimes be too tough but she is also brave and loyal and kind. The world needs more people like her. Struggling young ones need role models like her. This is why representation is important.

tl;dr

If you are looking for a success story that’s of The Ugly Dumpl—err, Duckling, kind where character development means the protagonist finds fault in her appearance and looses weight to be this gorgeous, skinny, “normal” human being, sorry, this book isn’t for you. But if you need a great story that would spark the fire to your confidence and acceptance of who you are, then go big. ☁

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