[This post is the third in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]
Dumplin’ Redefines the Word “Beautiful”
In this real-world story about high school drama, love, weight issues, and loving yourself, Willowdean seeks to prove that she can be just as beautiful as the pageant girls her mother coordinates.
Following Willowdean through her awkward high school years brings forward a memory of that girl we all remember. She is the girl that longs to fit in with the crowd, but finds herself being picked out. In the beginning of Dumplin’, Julie Murphy writes Willowdean to be this open-to-imagination character where the readers only know she’s fat. This allows anyone, plus sized or not, to go through the trials that the main character goes through.
In the story, Willowdean is very open about her weight and it doesn’t seem to bother her until more and more people comment on it. She says, “But that’s me. I’m fat. It’s not a cuss word. It’s not an insult. At least when I say it. So I always figure why not get it out of the way?”
Her hatred of the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant slowly begins to fade as she realizes that she has just as much of a right to be included and feel beautiful as the other girls. Through this entry of the pageant, she believes more in herself, finds confidence, and allows herself to be who she wants to be. Murphy does well in creating this character that most can relate to. The readers can place themselves into Willowdean’s shoes and relate to at least one of the many situations pushed upon the main character.
Though the situations may be many, they aren’t too much for Willowdean. She powers through each of them and shows the reader that being yourself is enough.