Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1) by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1) by Julie Murphy is a young-adult standalone series novel featuring a beloved self-proclaimed fat girl named Willowdean, with a deep and profound love for Dolly Parton (not a typo); it is a novel about accepting oneself, and making the most out of life, no matter your circumstances.

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.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

@ Goodreads - @ Amazon

The good:  Unconventional (read: overweight) heroine
The bad:  Love triangle, weak, shallow characters, slow moving plot

Before I tear into this like a piece of bloody meat and have the entire internet (or the four of you that still read this blog, in any event) thinking that I am some kind of fat person hater, I feel like I should explain my mindset and why I didn't connect with this novel on any level despite spending the vast majority of my life as fat, if not fatter, than the heroine in this novel.

So, briefly:  I got fat at the age of six which I could blame on a psychological event, but for the purpose of this review the whys are quite irrelevant.  After years of not really caring much about what I looked like, I was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2 at the age of 30.  I found that losing weight as a morbidly obese diabetic was not just difficult, but pretty much damn near impossible.  I underwent weight loss surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass) in January of 2015.  My Diabetes type 2 was cured immediately post-op; I've lost 168.8 pounds to date.  I went from a size 22 to a size 4.  From 300 pounds to 130 pounds.

Now, back to the novel.
Read on for spoilers...

Willowdean,"lovingly" called Dumplin' by her former beauty queen mother, is a fat Dolly Parton loving fanatic.  She's not necessarily proud to be fat, but she's not exactly ashamed of it, either.  So basically... girl is fat. Girl has no desire to lose weight, but is unhappy with her body and constantly deludes herself about it. Girl likes guy. Guy likes girl, but girl sees herself as too fat to allow him to get close to her. The end.

Very contradictory main character. She's proud of her body / she doesn't like to be touched because she's embarrassed by it. She doesn't care what people think of her because she's fat / she cares what people think of her if she were to date a really hot guy that she really likes. ???????????????

Oh wait -- did I mention that "Dumplin'" had a morbidly obese aunt that died in her 30's of a heart attack? Yet even then all of her concerns about her weight are aesthetic. It would have been really easy for the author to have had the main character decide to lose weight to get healthy like her deceased aunt would have wanted -- tell me she wouldn't have! (and hey! looking better is a perk, too!), but no!  

Willowdean's aunt's weight held her back her entire life, right up to her untimely death on the couch.  Where she effectively ate herself to death.  So what does Willowdean do?  Signs up and participates in a beauty pageant.  Because she found out that her deceased aunt wanted to enroll some twenty years prior, but didn't because she was fat. 

So yeah... Girl is going to kick herself in the fucking ass when she gets diabetes type 2 at the age of 30 because she was so "content" with being fat her entire life. Positive body image bullshit would be fine, in theory, if being obese wasn't extremely fucking unhealthy. But it is extremely unhealthy.  Love your body regardless of what it looks like, absolutely, but if you are overweight, try to lose some weight for your health.  Not for society.  For YOU.  

Willowdean's desire to actively not lose weight really doesn't make sense, because despite convincing herself that she is okay with her body, she really isn't.  She holds herself back because of her weight.  So the overall message of the book to love yourself is a huge fucking miss here.   If she really did love herself, and didn't hold herself back at all, my review would have been different.  But, deep down inside, I felt that Willowdean didn't like herself, purposely held herself back because of what society might think, and still didn't give a fuck about losing weight.  It's like the author is telling every overweight teenage girl to stick with being fat, and to just accept mediocrity and loneliness.

In summary, aside from my bias, Dumplin' was still not very great. Nothing really happened. Slow-moving "plot" (I use that term loosely), with lackluster characters.


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