Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
I should have known right off the bat that this book was going to irritate me because of the use of the word “twiggy” in the synopsis. That 100% gives it away that this book was going to be full of hypocrisy, and it was. The book was touted as being a feel-good, “fat girl” makes good, comfortable in your own skin type story. It had that, but it also had a lot of shaming towards others. Heck, Willowdean even comments on different “types of fat”, implying her type isn’t as bad as Millie’s. If this was supposed to be a book about acceptance, that acceptance should not have included shaming others to bring yourself up. That is wrong no matter what your size or situation is.
“I’m fat, but Millie’s the type of fat that requires elastic waist pants because they don’t make pants with buttons and zippers in her size. Her eyes are too close together and her nose pinches up in the end. She wears shirts with puppies and kittens and not in an ironic way.”
Full disclosure, I am a formerly morbidly obese woman. I am still overweight, but no longer morbidly obese. I absolutely know where I am coming from with regard to my comments below because I have lived it.
Possible teeny tiny spoilers in the Cons section below. Super minor, but if you haven’t read the book you may not want to read the Cons.
- Any book that teaches young men and women that their size does NOT dictate their likeableness or worth has value (see Con #1). Neither does their hair color, their eye color, their skin color, their test scores, their iPhone model, their address, etc.
- I preferred Mitch over Bo. Bo was one-dimensional and a bit boring to me. Mitch just seemed like such an honest, sweet guy. I’d have picked Mitch over Bo any day of the week (see Con #3).
- Relatively good lesson on self-esteem and there is nothing wrong with that at all! As long as one’s personal self-esteem doesn’t come by belittling someone else (see quote above) or disrespecting something others deem valuable or important (see Con #4).
- I’m paraphrasing here, but when Bo comes over to fix Willowdean’s broken front door he mentions to her that it was so easy to fix that he doesn’t understand why she or her mom didn’t fix it themselves ages ago. Willowdean responds “because you can’t open a broken front door.” Awesome metaphor!
- Any book that teaches young men and women that their size does NOT dictate their likeableness or worth has value. However, the fact that someone’s size shouldn’t devalue them in any way also doesn’t mean that being “fat” (and I believe Willowdean mentioned she had about 100 pounds to lose) is healthy. I would love it if books like these could also stress the need to be healthy – and 100 pounds overweight isn’t healthy. I mentioned I was formerly morbidly obese. I had confidence, travelled the world, became an engineer, got married, etc. All the “normal” things. But I was UNHEALTHY! I can be comfortable and confident in my own skin, but that doesn’t mean I am going to be in that skin for long unless I reduce the weight. In my personal situation I was hypertensive, pre-diabetic, and literally couldn’t go up 5 steps without gasping for air. I can be confident all day long, but staying on that path was going kill me by age 50. I wish books like this would emphasize health along with confidence. Being fat isn’t shameful, but it isn’t healthful. Period.
- I thought they would touch more on the health aspect with Lucy’s aunt and her situation, but it never happened, at least not openly. I think that was a huge missed opportunity.
- I find it interesting that Willowdean, who wants people to accept her as she is and wants to be able to do everything the “twiggy girls” do regardless of her appearance/size, picks Bo over Mitch. She picked the better looking guy over the larger guy. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? Or is it okay for Willowdean to prefer the better looking, thinner guy because she is overweight?
- Willowdean tries to make a “point” by entering the local pageant, to prove that she deserves to be there along with the skinny girls. But, ultimately that wasn’t what happened. If you are going to take an action like she did, at least take it seriously. Willowdean did NOT take it seriously. In fact, she put things off and actually knowingly sabotaged herself by doing something she knew would get her disqualified. If you are going to do something like this to prove you “belong” then don’t disrespect the thing you want so desperately to be a part of. By Willowdean getting disqualified, she negated everything she was trying to prove. She didn’t deserve to be there, and not because she was overweight, but because she didn’t respect the pageant in the first place.
- Thin people can have as many insecurities as overweight people. Presuming thin people have all the advantages or can do anything is simply wrong and I dislike when books perpetuate this concept. At least this book showed that Will’s friend Ellen had her own insecurities, even if it was a short blurb at the end of the book.
- The book itself seemed a bit bipolar to me. First of all Willowdean has a “don’t care what other people think” attitude about her size and then suddenly she questions whether or not she deserves Bo and “what will other people think” if they date. Maybe this is just more teenager angst that I don’t understand (and never experienced myself as a teen), but the duality of the personality didn’t make sense to me.
Ok, I obviously had way more cons that pros on this one, but I still think the book was a solid 3 stars. Books like this need to be written and read. This book could have been perfect in my opinion if health would have been mentioned even a little bit (and using the Lucy story line would have been perfect for that) and if Willowdean had not disrespected the pageant. I know my opinion isn’t a popular one – a lot of people seem to really love this book. We all read books from our own personal viewpoint. I was obese, and I am still overweight, so I really thought I’d connect with this book more, but I didn’t… and that is perfectly okay.
NOTE: I have lost 85 pounds in the past 17 months. I went from morbidly obese to overweight which is a huge accomplishment for me! I am still working on losing weight, not because I’m not confident or not comfortable with myself, but because I want to be healthy! I want to be around as long as possible and the extra weight (even though there is a lot less of it) continues to impact my health in various ways although thankfully in a lot less serious ways. I am no longer hypertensive and no longer pre-diabetic! Those are huge worries off my mind! Being thinner will not change who I am in any way other than improving my health.
Published September 15, 2015 by Balzer + Bray
My rating – 3 out of 5
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