Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (375 pages)
Overview: Willowdean "Dumplin'" is fat. It's something that she's come to accept about herself even after years of fad diets enforced by her mother and bullying at school. Aunt Lucy certainly helped with her self acceptance, and in cultivating her love of Dolly Parton, but Will is left rudderless after Lucy has a sudden heart attack. To reclaim a bit of confidence she'd lost, Will signs up for the Clover City Pageant. Though she's not the typical beauty queen, Will and her group of friends get to put their own stamp on her mother's beloved pageant. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 I like Willowdean. She lives in the place most of us do on the fine line between insecure and confident. Murphy does a great job building a crew of characters around Willowdean. It was fun to revisit the cast after I'd read Puddin', Murphy's forthcoming companion novel.
Plot: 4 While this book is mainly billed as being about a beauty pageant, it is only a small part of a larger story. Most of all, I think this book is about learning to cope, both with her situation and with grief. Lucy, though she's never alive during the novel, sets many things in motion, and dealing with her absence is a major deal for Willowdean. She also must learn to deal with strains in her relationships with her friends and the changing tide of her relationship with her mom.
Writing: 4 I've read three of Murphy's books now and always enjoy them. Her style makes the settings come to life like a pop-up book from the second you open the cover. Even though the book is quite lengthy, it makes for a quick read with nice chapter pacing and a flowing story. To Buy This Book: Click Here To Preorder Puddin': Click Here
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