Millie Michalchuk is a fat girl who’s tired of feeling bad about it. She goes to fat camp every summer because her mother swears there’s a thin girl inside her just waiting to come out. But not this summer. Millie is determined to go to a broadcast journalism summer school instead, just as long as she can get in, and convince her mother to let her go… She’s also crushing hard on Malik and trying to decipher his feelings for her, and attempting to keep her friendship group – which includes Willowdean from Dumplin’ – close.
Callie Reyes is a popular girl. Co-assistant Captain of the school’s dance team, one that has a good chance of getting to state and maybe national champs this year, she is focused and sure of herself and not about to let anything stand in her way. So when the local gym sponsoring the dance team pulls the funds, she and her team retaliate, an event that throws Callie’s year all out of whack, and into the path of Millie.
A companion piece to Dumplin‘ rather than a sequel, Puddin’ still features many of the same characters from the first book, and it’s lovely to see them when they appear. But this is Millie and Callie’s stories, told in alternating first person, and how their perspectives of each other change as they get to know each other. Callie spends a good deal of the book as a mean girl. Her friends are more like frenemies and her social life is entirely tied up in the dance team and her jock boyfriend, Bryce. But when all that is stripped away she starts to take a long hard look at herself, and doesn’t always like what she sees. I appreciated that Callie didn’t have an epiphany moment, and rather that her change of attitude and behaviour took a while. It felt real and organic rather than forced. And her friendship with Millie was something I became invested in.
I also really, really liked Millie, as I did in Dumplin’. She’s sweet and funny and very loyal, but also not a total pushover. The friction she has with her mother is believable and also incredibly painful to read at times. I’m mad at myself because I returned the book before writing down the quote that hit me hard, but there’s a whole scene where Millie confronts her mother about dieting and her mother’s response is just heartbreaking. Millie as she is isn’t good enough. Her mother needs her to be thin. I hope I never treat my kids like that. I hope I never even have thoughts like that.
This was another wonderful novel from Julie Murphy and I’m pleased I still have others of hers to pick up.