When I first heard about Dumplin’ it reminded me a bit of Little Miss Sunshine (which is an excellent film, watch it). The pageant itself isn’t a huge part of this book, but it is a big deal in the Texas town Willowdean lives in. Her mother, a former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet, is on the pageant committee and every summer their house is taken over by sequins and banners.
All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on.
Will isn’t your average beauty queen. She’s fat, and most the time that doesn’t bother her. She is still reeling from the loss of her aunt the year before. Lucy was large too, from what we gather she was morbidly obese and that contributed towards her death. I thought it was an interesting choice to both have body positive Will and a cautionary tale in another character. It’s OK to be a bit overweight but there is a point where your lifestyle and health will be impacted. It makes her mother’s concern for her weight less superficial.
Will signs up for the pageant about half way though the book and the first half is more about her friendship with Ellen and her blossoming romance (or snogging by the bins) with Bo, the hot guy she’s been working with for a while. Will worries that if their relationship goes public eveyone will stare and wonder why her? She’s not the kind of girl boys like Bo date, but he isn’t the one keeping it a secret, not really.
Will’s really quite stubborn and her own worst enemy at times. She falls out with Ellen when they both sign up for the pageant and I must admit I sided with Ellen. Will was being pretty selfish and wasn’t going to be the one to extend an olive branch. Their friendship was brilliant and so close before, it was sad to see it fall apart so easily. She also pushes Bo away because of what others might think and then she uses poor Mitch, who is nothing but friendly and kind.
Good friendships are durable. They’re meant to survive the gaps and the growing pains.
I ended up picking this up because of Diversity Bingo and it seems really hard to find a main character that’s not thin or toned. Fiction so often casts the overweight as villains or comedy sidekicks. Let’s have more characters that get out of breath when they have to run from danger or who struggle to find a dress that fits properly.
Plenty of scenes will resonate with anyone who has spent any time being not thin. It’s the little things, like when Will was making out with Bo and she flinched every time her touched her fat bits. I mean it’s illogical but I can relate. If they’ve got that far it doesn’t matter to him but brains never cooperate do they? It’s one thing to love yourself, but another to let people love you too.
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Book Source: Purchased