Murphy, Julie. Dumplin'. Balzer+Bray, 2015.
Willowdean's mother is obsessed with the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, while Willowdean has followed in her late aunt's footsteps in scorning the pageant and listening to Dolly Parton records. But when Willowdean decides to spite her mother and enter the pageant, her misfit group of friends joins her, and Willowdean is soon drowning in pageant details, friend drama, and possible boyfriend drama. What's a girl to do?
I cannot begin to explain how much I loved Willowdean's character. She's fat, but not ashamed of her weight and not perpetually dieting. She joins a pageant where she will be putting her body on display against very thin girls and she still doesn't try to lose weight to squeeze into a smaller dress. Her almost-boyfriend likes her, but not out of pity or because of a dare from a friend; he just really, really likes her. She has an argument with her best friend from childhood and they go through the awkward "is this over, should I still hate you" phase. Willow is friends with a girl with a physical disability and a girl who is biracial, lesbian, and really bitchy most of the time. The book doesn't have a Disney-esque ending where Willow wins the crown and everyone learns a lesson. The gentle Southern voice rings throughout the story and makes me hopeful that a good narrator will be found for the audio version of this story.
Willowdean is a strong female character who owns her $h!t like she should and embodies the gentle fierceness that defines a Southern lady. Also there are Dolly Parton drag queens.
Recommended for: teens and adults
Red Flags: minor bullying, a few fights, El has sex with her boyfriend but the reader doesn't get any graphic details
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars
Read-Alikes: Beauty Queens, 45 Pounds, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces