Book Review: DUMPLIN’ By Julie Murphy Gives Beauty Stereotypes The Finger

Why should you consider reading this book?

Other than Young Adult fiction bringing in some powerful writing on the literary table, if you’re someone who has fought with body image conditioning for a long time (which basically includes all of us), then this is where you find relief. One of those very few stories that neither fat shames nor skinny shames any body type but rather lets you feel proud of the skin you wear, Dumplin accounts for feelings you haven’t voiced out loud.

What the back-cover says:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Things I liked about the book:

1) The characters are absolutely human. From scrutinizing thigh fat to understanding that she can never be a size zero, the story talks about every insecurity we’ve been taught to have about our bodies. Fluff and floss is replaced by sheer honesty. The plot is messy, chaotic, just like our day-to-day.

2) The author tackles crucial issues like dysfunctional families, the process of grieving the loss of a loved one, not settling for relationships that mentally destroy you and acceptance and celebration of your body, just as it is. The prose is simple, catchy and absolutely millennial but bears with it the power to voice out things that need to be addressed and not brushed under the carpet.

3) The welcoming vulnerability of the characters is refreshing. They are the kind of folks we talk to, hang out with and bear the very same life questions we are afraid to ask. We may not wear 34 inch pants (or maybe some of us do), or sign up for beauty pageants to break some beauty myths, but we each in our way rebel with what the world considers “okay”.

5) Some fantastic introduction to Dolly Parton, the queen of country and folk music. It is absolutely amazing the flip through the pages, read about Willow listening to a Parton number, pausing on that very page and YouTube’ing that very number for feeling the feels the story demands. (I love books that add value to your playlist or convince you to revamp it.)

6) Stand-alone scenes and moments that promise a “come back and read me again.” These are my favorite bits of reading a story: stumbling upon parts that I know I’ll keep revisiting, time and again.

Things I did not like about the story:

1) I would have loved some more punch lines and some sassy, in depth prose which I sort of missed.

A quote from the book I swear by:

My Rating: 3.5/5