By Julie Murphy
I’ve been meaning to read Dumplin’ for a while. As a fat girl myself, it only seemed appropriate to read about another fat girl joining a beauty pageant. But the story is so much more than that!
Willowdean Dixon is the daughter of a former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant winner, one who never really left the pageant behind. Willowdean’s mother runs the pageant every year, turning their lives into a pageant hurricane zone. But it never really bothered Willowdean much, because it was something that was not for her. Fat girls didn’t participate in beauty pageants, and even if they did, it wasn’t really her scene anyway.
With all the trials and tribulations that come with being a high school student, Willowdean is also in mourning. Her beloved Aunt Lucy died months before the start of the book, and Willowdean is still processing her absence. Aunt Lucy was more than fat – she was over 500 lbs, and she never really left the house.
Willowdean is finding her first relationship in a secret summer romance with her coworker Bo Larsen, but things turn quickly. Willowdean is usually fine with her fat body, at least until Bo touches it, and then she goes into panic mode. So she breaks it off.
Once in school, Willowdean finds herself seatmates with Mitch, a big football player who is very shy, quiet, and polite. (I love him.) Almost without realizing it, Willowdean finds herself dating Mitch. She’s not really into it, and knows it won’t go anywhere, but Mitch is a nice boy, even though she feels kind of awful for stringing him along (as she should.) (I have heard that the entire Mitch storyline isn’t in the movie, and that is a TRAVESTY!)
In looking through some of her aunt’s papers, Willowdean finds an application for the pageant, unsubmitted. In a tribute to her aunt, and all the things she didn’t do because of her weight, Willowdean decided to enter. This causes drama, and Willowdean ends up meeting some new friends in three other misfits, Hannah, Millie, and Amanda.
There are times the story frustrated me with teen drama and poor choices, but I’m a little past the intended audience at this point, so that’s ok. There were also times I saw where the story could have gone in countless other directions and missed opportunities, but hey, I’m not an author. Maybe some of those missed storylines come around in the other books in the series. (I tried listening to the next book in the series, Puddin’, but there are different readers, which is fine, but they use wildly different voices, and I just couldn’t. I feel that if you’re going to read a book in a series, at least listen to the first book to see where the audience expects voices to land. Millie has a bit of a high-pitched soprano voice in the first book, but the second gives her definite alto tones, and it was too different and seemingly out-of-character for me. Also, they established Texan accents in the first one, and there was not an accent to be found in the sequel. Nope!)
(This fulfills the 2021 CBR 13 Bingo square of Rec’d – a bunch of people reviewed it, but thanks, sistercoyote!)
Faith: Taking Flight
By Julie Murphy
I wasn’t as enamoured of this as I was Dumplin’. Both feature fat girls, but Faith’s weight wasn’t really that much of an issue. Faith is a fat girl who can fly. She goes through some mysterious procedure (one that is it no way pleasant) and comes out the other end with the ability to fly.
Faith is a bit more frustrating as a character. She has this amazing ability, but due to the trauma of acquiring it, she hasn’t trained with it. Like, at all. No going into the deserted woods alone to practice or anything. Who does that?
Faith’s favorite show, The Grove, has come to her small town to film for some mysterious reason. Faith also bumps into the star of the show Dakota, her celebrity crush, and becomes friends with her and starts dating her at some point. Faith has a boy at school she’s also interested in, but he’s not as exciting as Dakota.
There’s a lot of drama and conspiracies and disappearances and drugs. Faith is a shitty friend at times, but she’s also a teenager, so there’s that. With all of the complications, I’m not sure I’ll read the next book.
(This fulfills the 2021 CBR 13 Bingo square of Reader’s Choice, replacing UnCannon, because I ran out of time!)