Oct 4, 2015

Dumplin', by Julie Murphy

What a treasure, this book is! Meet Willowdean Dickson: sixteen, blond, and fat. But she's okay with it, really; her body is the way it is and she's comfortable in her own skin. She loves Dolly Parton and her best friend Ellen, and misses her beloved Aunt Lucy who died of a heart attack after reaching 500 pounds. But this is the summer of the changing status quo... Ellen and her boyfriend Tim decide to finally have sex, and Bo, the drop dead gorgeous private school boy Willowdean works with at the burger joint, starts kissing her behind the dumpster at work. It's wonderful, beautiful, exciting - until Bo touches Willowdean's body. Every caress reminds Will of her back fat, or her bulging thighs, and she just can't get it out of her head. Then school starts and Bo is suddenly at her high school, and this football player Mitch starts courting her, and she gets in this huge fight with Ellen that there seems to be no coming back from, and, oh yeah, she decides to compete in the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pagaent. Whew...

This book is just fantastic. There's no apologies here, no physical transformations or realizations of some hidden innate talent to make everybody love her. Will muddles through like the rest of us, doing her best to be happy and confident but not succeeding most of the time, and who can't relate to that? She doesn't lose weight or even try, she doesn't embrace her body and start flaunting it like a drag queen; she just comes to terms with the fact that sometimes trying out something different isn't so bad, and that a bully just isn't worth anybody's time. This isn't a manifesto; it's a common ground on which all people with insecurities (i.e. ALL people) can meet each other and recognize that we've all been there. Willowdean isn't a hero, just a kid trying to find her way and starting on that journey with a smile on her face. I love this book, and hope it gets read by all the girls out there who need it.

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