***I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion. The review below reflects my open and honest thoughts.***
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly
unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
Do you ever stare into the mirror and nitpick every piece of your body? Do you ever wonder what other people see when they look at you? Do you ever get self-conscious when someone touches a part of you that you’re not happy with? Do you hold yourself back from doing things that you want to because of body image issues? Like strutting around in a swimsuit? Or walking into a particular clothing store in the mall? Or even entering a beauty pageant? Who hasn’t done all of these things at some point in their life?
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m not always the most confident person when it comes to my body. During college I put on some weight (who doesn’t?) and I’m still slowly trying to take it back off. And sometimes I look in the mirror and am really unhappy. And Willowdean gets that. I was instantly able to connect with her. I’ve never been overweight like Will is, but I’ve had the same insecurities she does. And that’s what I think people connect with in this book. The feeling of not being good enough. Will is actually pretty comfortable in her skin which was refreshing to read about. But once she starts dating hot guy Bo, she starts to question whether or not she’s good enough for him. Which leads her to question whether or not she’s good enough to compete in the beauty pageant. She is fighting against the knowledge that she should be comfortable in her own skin and the thought of Bo discovering all her imperfections. The internal struggle that Will goes through is something that everyone will be able to relate to and that’s why I loved this book.
Julie Murphy made me laugh, made me cringe, made me clench my fists and made me cry during this book. There were so many different facets to Dumplin’ that I enjoyed. There was a heart-breaking mother-daughter relationship that brought me to tears. Will’s mom is not nice. I couldn’t stand her for the whole book. But I could see her mom’s own insecurities and they felt like kindred spirits to me. I knew that eventually they would get to an okay place with a lot of hard work because Will’s mom understands her better than she thinks. There was a relationship between Will and her best friend, Ellen that was complicated and messy. Ellen is skinny and beautiful and Will feels like she’s living in her shadow and slowly being left behind. I loved watching Will slowly realize that maybe she can’t blame everything on Ellen. Maybe she has to shoulder some of the blame herself.
And then there was the Will and Bo relationship. I loved these two together. I loved how they both had to learn about relationships and the importance of fostering those relationships. Neither of them were perfect, far from it, and their relationship has a really rocky start. But the journey was fantastic and I got all the feels watching them slowly figure things out.
The pageant is actually not a huge focus of this book. We barely get any pageant stuff and I was happy with that. The focus is on Will and how her choice to participate is changing her entire outlook on herself and on others. The lessons she learns from competing are amazing and her transformation is a thing of beauty. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a contemporary that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. If you want to learn how to accept yourself as you are, Willowdean can teach you a few lessons.
Have you read this book yet? Did Willowdean teach you a few lessons as well? What other books out there on body image should I be reading?