Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy | Book ReviewDumplin' by Julie Murphy
Also by this author: Side Effects May Vary, Ramona Blue
Published by HarperCollins on September 15th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Adolescence, Dating & Sex, Emotions & Feelings
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean 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 Teen Blue Bonnet 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.

PRAISE HANDS FOR JULIE MURPHY. All of the emoji praise hands for Julie Murphy. For serious I want to just throw a ticker tape parade for her latest book, Dumplin’. I want to press it into the hands of anyone who has ever been made to feel bad about how they look. I want to press it into the hands of anyone who has ever made someone feel bad about how they look. I want to just hand this book out to pretty much ALL OF THE PEOPLE. There’s this fierce message about loving yourself, even the difficult, not so simple complicated bits. It’s about going for what you want and fuck everyone who says you can’t.

Straight up, Willowdean Dickson is fat. She has a body that takes up space. That’s who she is. There is nothing wrong with this and this book is sort of an ode, I felt, to body acceptance. Dumplin’ is about how Willowdean decides to compete in the Miss Bluebonnet Pageant despite not being your typical pageant girl. But that is sort of a shallow reading of the book. It’s about so much more.

It’s about friendship and what happens when that friendship goes through tough times. It is about a band of misfits banding together. It is about first love. It is about a complicated mother daughter relationship. It is about grief. It is about our lord and savior Saint Dolly Parton. I know I am being super vague on the plot, but listen you guys I went into this book only knowing that it is about a girl who is fat and hashtag Dumplin Pose and that’s it. And that kind of made my experience the greatest.

Willowdean Dickson is the bomb diggity. I don’t even care that I am revealing myself as an old for saying that. DO NOT CARE. Okay you guys here is the thing if you want a young adult book about a character that is realistic in that sometimes she is a pain in the ass but she has a truly good heart and she’s a ball of confidence and vulnerabiltiy, you need to meet Willowdean Dickson. She’s exactly how teenagers are. There’s moments where she is on top of the world, and then there are moments where she’s feeling vulnerable and weak and scared to go for what she wants. What I mean to say is that she’s incredibly human and awesome and I love her. I even love how prickly she can be. I mean, everyone is and we cannot all be Saint Dolly Parton.

So, I think that Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ has that reputation of the fat acceptance young adult book. And you know what? That’s awesome. There’s a moment where Willowdean drops a major truth about bathing suits and how listen, we wear them not to be sexy or whatever, but because we want to swim and there’s nothing wrong with that. So much of this book is dead on about bodies and how we treat people with different bodies. In addition to Willowdean, there are other misfit sorts of girls who join the Pageant with her, including Hannah who is a black lesbian with an overbite, Millie, and Amanda who walks with a limp. These girls are all great girls but judged for how they look and in a negative way.

There’s also Ellen Dryver, Willowdean’s best friend. Ellen is conventionally beautiful and this is a bone of contention sometimes with Willowdean who occasionally finds herself a bit jealous of Ellen. I liked this realism and how Murphy doesn’t sugarcoat. ALSO! Can I just say I love that Willowdean doesn’t solve her issues with losing weight. I love that instead, she’s like, fuck it this is who I am, I have a body that is a bit bigger, but that works and gets me from point A to point B, accept me. I LOVE THAT. Like, you guys I feel like this is a thing that is rare in young adult YA and I want more of it. I mean, okay, I am a thin person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t give a shit about treating other people with dignity.

Julie Murphy also does something unconventional in that she writes a romance for Willowdean. She writes a romance where Willowdean has options. She writes a romance where Willowdean is not the jolly best friend. Willowdean does not attract a guy by losing weight. Instead, she does it by being herself. This is amazing. I am sorry but I feel like I never see this and I want more of it. I loved that both characters were good guys and not jerks. There’s Bo, Willowdean’s coworker at Harpy’s who is the jock athletic type. Then there is Mitch, the football player in her class who is super nice but doesn’t quite rev her engine.

To recap you need to get your hands on Dumplin’ because:

  • There are so many references to our greatest national treasure, Dolly Parton
  • SEX POSITIVITY – I mean no one gets pregnant and dies
  • Willowdean is sassy and amazing and unapologetic about who she is
  • Real talk about what it’s like to be fat and how it is okay to carve out space for yourself
  • OH AND IT IS SO IMMENSELY READABLE, like I started reading this book on my vacation because my original picked book was not grabbing me, then I got home and kept thinking about it but couldn’t immediately get to it because of other obligations but then I did get to it and whipped through it!

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Seeing how you really loved this book, I recommend you give My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary (the book) and My Mad Fat Diary (the TV series) a shot. I actually only watched the show, because I haven’t had the chance to grab the book, and I fell so hard in love with it! Rae, the main character, seems to be very similar to Willowdean. Just give them a go and you won’t regret it, for sure!


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