I was thrilled to hear Julie Murphy wrote a sequel to Dumplin’ and picked up a copy as soon as my library got it in. I definitely had high expectations but, unfortunately, I also had very little knowledge about what the sequel was about so I was a bit let down to realize Willlowdean was relegated to a barely mentioned side character. If you are a big fan of Dumplin’ then I recommend going into Puddin’ with the mindset that it is not a sequel but rather its own standalone novel that is equally body positive and full of female empowerment.
Puddin’ focuses on two main characters; Callie, a co-assistant captain on the high school dance team, the Shamrocks, and Millie, an overweight craft fiend who aspires to be a journalist. When Millie’s uncle’s gym pulls their sponsorship of the school dance team Callie, and the rest of the dance team, vandalize the gym. Unfortunately, Callie is the only one easily identified on camera and she takes full responsibility. Her plea bargain, of sorts, involves working at the gym to pay off the damage. Callie has to learn how to go from Queen Bee to a social pariah under house arrest.
“I know. They don’t put fat girls on the news. Well, they didn’t let fat girls win runner-up in the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant either. But everything happens for the first time at some point, so why can’t the first time be me?”
Millie, who tries to be the perfect daughter to her diet obsessed mother, secretly applies to a summer journalism program in lieu of attending fat camp. Like Willowdean, Millie doesn’t think “fat” is a dirty word and she hopes to breaks some barriers in both her family’s thinking and the broadcast journalism. While Millie is the obvious underdog I felt like Callie had the more interesting story arc.
It should be unsurprising to any reader of YA that Callie and Millie form an unlikely friendship that brings out the best in both girls.
Once I got over the fact that Willowdean and Ellen were going to be nothing more than occasionally referenced friends of Millie’s I really enjoyed this one. Murphy does an excellent job at delving into the hardships that come from being a teenage girl, especially one who doesn’t conform to traditional beauty norms.