Willowdean Dickson, a self-proclaimed fat girl, is proud of her body despite the cruelty of some people at school. Will, or “Dumplin'” to her mom, discovers that her crush Bo reciprocates her feelings and she is both thrilled and surprised. Rather than be her usual confident self, Will retreats from Bo’s touch as she becomes fully aware of how her body must look to him and others. In order to try and regain some confidence, Will enrolls in the annual teen beauty pageant run by her mom, a former beauty queen, as she is determined to show the world that any girl can be up there on that stage.
This book with its iconic pose has been highly anticipated and I can see why. The message with this story may resonate with a lot of people, including myself – regardless of one’s body size. Whether one is “overweight” or “underweight”, Dumplin’ takes on the task to show that regardless of one’s looks or weight, we shouldn’t let others try to bring us down. I appreciated that Murphy wrote Willowdean to be confident, yet still vulnerable. She’s someone who is happy with her body, and tries to handle the criticism like a champ. She felt very relatable. I loved that.
With a dynamic cast of supporting characters, Dumplin’ is full of awesome wins and dramatic dilemmas. At times, I was worried that the story angle was veering from empowering to preachy, but it thankfully doesn’t end up feeling that way. This book realistically tackles not only body image, but also family relationships, friendships, grief & loss. The complexities of growing up with people come in and out of your lives is a constant throughout this story.
There is a lot of conversation lately surrounding diversity, and I’m thrilled to see it expand from just cultural and racial diversity. I can easily see Willowdean Dickson become a champion for a lot of readers, her confidence and love of Dolly Parton completely infectious.