This is the girl-power book for all of us

Got insecurities? Read “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy.

Adah McMillan, Copy and Design Editor

Do you have something about your body you wish you could change?

If you said no, you’re probably lying.

If you said yes, you aren’t alone. (Warning: This review contains surplus amounts of cheesiness.) Everyone feels like this sometime or another, especially Willowdean Dickson, the main character of Julie Murphy’s book Dumplin’.

Willowdean is a “cashier, Dolly Parton enthusiast, and resident fat girl”, in her own words (Page 8). She tells herself that her weight means nothing to her, that she doesn’t need to be skinny to be happy.

But this is extra hard with a beauty queen for a mom. And not just any beauty queen: Rosie Dickson, the ‘97 winner of the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant. Willowdean’s mom is always pressuring her to lose weight, more so since Willowdean’s beloved 500 plus pound Aunt Lucy died from a heart attack. Willowdean idolized Lucy and is devastated without her wise words and counsel. As Rosie starts cleaning out Lucy’s room to make room for the chaos of the pageant, which she still leads, mother and daughter clash again and again.

Meanwhile, Willowdean is drifting apart from her best friend Ellen. Ellen has the perfect beach body, a nice boyfriend, and new friends from her job at a girls’ department store that doesn’t exactly cater to Willowdean’s size. Willowdean can’t help but notice these differences, which start popping up in their small friend-arguments until they become real arguments.

And THEN we have Bo, the super hot former jock who works at a fast food joint with Willowdean.

Side note: Willowdean is ten letters long. It is a burden to type, but you can’t just go calling her “Willow” or “Dean”. It’s Willowdean. And poor Bo. I can’t help thinking of B.O. when I read his name. So dearest reader, don’t give your kids names with numberless letters or undesirable associations. Please and thank you.

Anyway, W-I-L-L-O-W-D-E-A-N cannot comprehend how Bo, the unfortunately named super hot former jock, could like her, the resident fat girl. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not like he might, I don’t know, not be really shallow. And even though being with Bo is wonderful and the best part of her day, Willowdean doesn’t want to be the “how did a girl like her get a guy like him?” kind of couple.

All of Willowdean’s problems culminate and then explode when she decides to enter the beauty pageant with Millie (another fat girl), Amanda (whose legs have different lengths), Hannah  (“half Dominican lesbian with buckteeth”, in her own words), and… Ellen (who doesn’t have any huge physical “imperfections”). This group of outcasts (plus Ellen) wants to compete as a sort of revolution, to show that every girl deserves a place in a beauty pageant. Or at least that’s the plan (dun dun dun…).

And you’re gonna have to read the book to find out what happens next. Or you can cheat and watch the movie first. I would never do such a thing. Don’t be ridiculous. Movies are the worst, ha ha ha…

Dumplin’ is a great girl-power book.* And not just fat-girl-power. Like I said at the beginning, pretty much everybody has some physical trait they’d rather not. No one is perfect, and the world will definitely exploit that. Whether you think you’re too fat or too clumsy or too unlovable or too whatever, you can sympathize with Willowdean and her insecurities. I know I did. And while some people will point out your flaws, your real friends will see strengths you didn’t know you possessed. Her friends see Willowdean’s confidence and get her to see it, too. Sometimes, recognizing something can make it real.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” -Dolly Parton


*Second only to Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, a perfect book to read with Dumplin’.