There’s a lot to unpack about Dumplin’, which I picked up after years of avoiding it. (I have this thing about contemporary YA. I’m trying to break myself of that though.) I watched the Netflix movie and was charmed and decided to give the book a shot.
I really, really enjoyed the book. Dumplin’ is the story of a plus size girl who decides to enter the beauty pageant her mother runs, in an attempt to make a statement about, something? Conformity? Beauty standards? One of the best parts about Dumplin’ though, is that even Willowdean, it’s protagonist and narrator isn’t exactly sure what statement she’s making here.
Throughout the couple of month’s surrounding the pageant, Willowdean has a massive fight with her best friend, gets caught between two boys, (TEAM MITCH! To anyone who’s read the book this will be not even remotely surprising. The sweetheart who’s nice to the protagonist and then cast aside in the end for the more conventional choice? When have I EVER rooted for that?) makes a group of new friends and makes peace with the death of a relative.
Dumplin’ packs a lot into it’s 350 or so pages, and it’s all really good. Willowdean is a great narrator as YA narrator’s go. One of my favorite things about this genre, is the way it let’s it’s protagonists be sort of assholes. Because teenagers, for all of their magic and joy and fun, can, well, kind of be assholes.
Also, Dumplin’ shares with Eleanor And Park a detail that I like. Willowdean’s size is never specified. She’s big, we know she can’t fit into the junior’s size clothes at the store where her best friend works, but beyond that, we’re left to our own devices to picture her. As a bigger girl, who’s body type is not often represented even in stories about that kind of thing, (Tall, curvy, wide waist and hips. I’ve always said seeing Sara Ramirez on Broadway was my big “I’m seen” body rep moment) I’ve always appreciated this.
Anyway, Dumplin’ is worth the read. It’s frothy, funny, and full of heart. I found the movie a little bit more emotional, with a little less edge but other than that, it’s a pretty good adaptation too.
Up next is Crisis On Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez…I’m getting back into superheroes, like actively. I’ve missed them.