Dumplin’ is the story of Willowdean Dickson, an overweight teenager living in a small Texas town that only cares about football and the Clover City’s Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. According to her author’s bio, Julie Murphy is a resident of North Texas; her inside knowledge of Homecoming mums and it being too hot to swim outside in the summer drive home her Texas credentials.
“There is no higher achievement for a southern woman than the ability to eat barbecue and walk away stain free.”
But Dumplin’ isn’t just about Texas idioms.
Willowdean and her best friend, Ellen, have been inseparable since infancy brought on by a mutual love of Dolly Parton. Will’s Aunt Lucy & Ellen’s mother introduced the girls to the music of Dolly when they were babies. Lucy, unfortunately, was obese and died of a heart attack the previous winter. While going through Lucy’s things Willowdean discovers an application to compete in the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant and decides to compete in her dead aunt’s memory.
Will’s mother won the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant and now serves as the pageant’s official hostess- she still wears the dress she wore when she won. While she is a little skeptical of her overweight daughter’s participation she allows her to sign up. Unfortunately, the pageant causes a rift between Ellen and Willowdean. Will’s decision to compete inspires three other “misfit” girls to join the pageant; the four of them become friends and have a few ups & downs while navigating through the pageant world.
There is also a boy.
I really liked the love triangle Willowdean had going on because it was nice to see someone who isn’t the stereotypical beauty queen have multiple romantic options. While her weight was not something Will was proud of it also wasn’t something she was ashamed of; she didn’t go on a crash diet or over-exercise to fit in with the typical pageant crowd. In the end, Dumplin’ is about accepting who you are, flaws and all. The ending was an ideal scenario for both the skeptic and the dreamer.