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Willowdean Dickson, the narrator of Julie Murphy’s novel Dumplin’, is proud to call herself a fat girl, ready to challenge those who put her down for her size. When she falls for her attractive coworker, Bo, she begins to feel a self-consciousness that threatens that confidence. She joins her town’s beauty pageant, challenging the popular conception of what beauty queens ought to look like, and in the events that follow, she confronts new issues with friendship, family, her body, and the memory of her late aunt.

Willowdean is a flawed character who inspires, a girl who knows that she deserves the same love that the thin pageant girls do but doesn’t always feel ready to accept it. Murphy handles issues of body image and social acceptance with nuance—the book is about what it’s like to be a “fat girl,” but it’s also about how to treat people who care about you and how to honor the memory of the people you miss. The large cast of minor characters makes it hard for any secondary character to be fully developed, and at times the narrative voice doesn’t ring true, but despite these faults, Dumplin’ is a fun novel with important things to say.

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Author Julie Murphy
Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 384 pages
Publisher Balzer + Bray
Publish Date 2015-Sep-15
ISBN 9780062327185
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue October 2015
Category Young Adult


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