book.review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Recently, I moved out onto my own. It’s wonderful, but the biggest gripe has been finances – where to cut costs in order to maintain it on my own.

What was first to go? My below Indigo-Chapters bookstore runs.

What took it’s place was something I hadn’t been inside of in over 12 years – the library. Now armed with my own library card, I’ve forgotten the simple pleasure of browsing the aisles and finding that ‘must-read’ buried within the stacks. The first ‘must-read’ I found hiding in my libraries bookshelves was Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy.

And boy, is it ever a must read!

RELEASE DATE: September 2015

PUBLISHER: Balzar and Bray

SYNOPSISSelf-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.

REVIEW: I’d wanted to read this book since it came out but I … didn’t. It got buried within other must-reads and must-pay bills and I simply forgot about. Thank god for the library, where this novel was sitting on the shelf like a beacon. As much as I was drawn in, it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser.

Willowdeen is oversized – plump, yet fabulous. Within her little town, only one main event happens every year that brings the town together – the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Even though Willow’s picture perfect mother runs the show, she’s never given it too much thought. It all changes when Willow meets Bo – a private school reject with stunning eyes and Jared Leto esque hair. Willow harbours a crush on the boy…and is totally thrown off her game when Bo seemingly crushes back. Instead of being built up on confidence, Willow utilmately rejects the notion of a Willow + Bo relationship. In order to gain her confidence and inner goddess feeling back, she enters the Miss Clover City pageant, placing herself amongst a sea of model-esque women. Along the way, other ‘non-coforming’ pageant contestants enter the race … leading Willow down a path of self-discovery and non-conformist revolution.

I adored this novel. I devoured it in a weekend. As soon as I jumped into the world of Willowdean, I just couldn’t put it down. Her world is typical – a woman who feels self-conscious when all eyes are on her, and Murphy does her very best at describing real life scenarios most of us with self-confidence issues encounter.

My one gripe with the novel – Willow’s self confidence issues make her just as judgmental as those she hates. For instance, when discussing other girls at school who don’t fit in like she does, instead of being sympathetic or lending a hand of support, she always degrades them and makes me, as the reader, feel like she’s portraying them as “freaks”. I felt like reading her inner thoughts was a statement of “I’m not a freak, but you know who is? That girl”. I understand that it’s her self-confidence that steamrolls her fellow characters in the novel, but I wish it was touched upon. She’s also incredibly judgy of her best friend – I found myself at times wondering if they were in fact friends, just based on Willow’s inner most thoughts. It’s not how true friends interact.

If I could change one thing, it would be to no longer represent Willow as this character of self-confidence, because at her centre, she’s really isn’t. This is clearly evident through her interactions with all the characters within this novel.

Other than that, this novel is a joyful read that I truly devoured. It’s fun, it’s sassy, and it’s contempory.

Happy reading.

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