Saturday, June 18, 2016
Dumplin', written by Julie Murphy. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2015. $21.99 ages 12 and up
Willowdean is 16 and not fazed by her size when we first meet her. She's fat, and that's that! Her mother, on the other hand, is not so willing to be accepting of her daughter's stance on size. She is a previous winner of the Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, and lives in past glory of that revered win. Every year she diets to get into her old dress, puts pressure on Will to lose weight, and cannot comprehend why her daughter is not willing to do so.
While her mother is consumed with all things pageant, Will is busy with her own life. She is grieving the death of her much-loved Aunt Lucy, spending time with her best friend Ellen, harboring a crush on one of her co-workers, and being her own best self. High school is not easy for anyone who is 'different' from their peers. Will is a brilliant character, realistic and vulnerable. She is not afraid to stand up for herself or for others. Yet, she is just as self-conscious as every other teenager when it comes to awareness of body image. Is any one of us every happy with the way we look?
Will lives her life as best she can, and that is the focus of her story. The relationship between Will and Ellen has changed. Though they have grown up together and know each other better than anyone else does, it does not ensure a lack of conflict. As with all close relationships, they come to a point where circumstance results in misunderstanding and hurt. What will it take for them to see their way back to what they once had?
Her friendship with the pageant girls fills a void for her. They all have issues and bond over them. The four of them decide that they have as much right to be pageant contestants as anyone does; they enter their names. Getting to know each one of them is great fun as they are worthy of attention and the reader's admiration. They are unlike most characters we meet in young adult literature.
And then, there's Bo. He's hot, he is a co-worker, and he is not perfect. Who is? As they get to know one another better, he is honest about his past and also his feelings for Will. It makes Will uncomfortable knowing the kind of reaction they will get should they let others know how they feel.
Her confidence wavers; the results are funny, heartfelt, and helpful in making her realize her true potential. She is an awesome character. You will love her!