Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)
Age: YA 13+
Willowdean Dickson is the daughter of a former beauty queen in Clover City, TX. Dubbed Dumplin by her mother & deceased Auny Lucy because if her size. The town is famous for its yearly pageant the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant. Willow works at a local fast food joint called Harpy’s, they sell hot dogs & burgers & she loathes every minute of it. Except when she works with the cook Bo. He’s a Catholic private school boy with sparkling eyes, full lips, & an obsession with red lollipops. Willow’s best friend is Ellen Dryver & she’s a skinny All-American teenager with a boyfriend named Tim, the two are stuck together at the hip most of the time.
Aunt Lucy was more of a mom to Willow than her actual mom. So Willow is really upset by Lucy’s unexpected passing. The three girls all shared a love of Dolly Parton, Willow finds comfort in the old record player Lucy left behind & the wail of “Jolene” when she’s down. So when she’s having problems with Bo, Dolly is there to comfort her & Lucy too in a way.
When Bo & her’s secret relationship goes by the way side, Mitch, a handsome football player is there to be her friend & maybe more. Willow’s mom starts to clean out Lucy’s room as pageant season draws near so she can turn it into a craft room. Willow is furious that her mom wants to let Lucy go so soon. So to quell her anger & do something Lucy never could do she decides to enter the pageant. Little does she know she’s inspiring a whole flock out outcasts at her school to join her.
There’s Millie who is about twice Willow’s size, Hannah who has “horse teeth”, Amanda who wears special shoes to balance her feet, & Ellen who decides if Willow is going to enter she has to also. It isn’t long before Ellen gets made at Willow for making the pageant all about herself & helping the other girls. Ellen finds friendship in a fellow contestant & coworker at the store she works at in the mall, Sweet 16, & pushes Willow away. The group have a long way to go to be ready for the pageant & they enlist the help of two of Lucy’s old friends Lee & Dale who are impersonators at a drag club nearby.
As the pageant draws closer Bo transfers to Willow’s school which creates tension between him & Mitch over Willow. She has to decide who is going to be her escort at the pageant & possibly more than that. Willow is also struggling with finding a talent, changing it at the last minute without panel approval creates a problem. And then there’s her friendship with Ellen, will she fix it in time? But everything surprisingly comes together in the end.
Willowdean Dickson is Dumplin & she goes big or goes home!
Likes: This books was hilarious! There’s southern charm & love is radiating off every page.
It was great to see a “fat girl” stand up for her dreams & take no prisoners.
The friendship between Ellen & Willow is great & it’s the kind you hope to find in real life.
Dislikes: This book was slow…you don’t even get to the pageant part until almost 300 pages in, then the actual event doesn’t take place until the last 40 pages or so.