Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie MurphyDumplin' by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray on September 15th 2015
Pages: 384
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

When I first heard about Dumplin’, I was really excited to read it. I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about it (based on early reviews) and how deeply it effected some people. Sadly, though, this book ended up being completely underwhelming for me.

I loved how unapologetic Willlowdean (Will) was about her fatness. She cares what people think, but only to a certain extent. She’s got that “I’m fat. Don’t like it? Don’t look” attitude that I wish I had. I could really relate to a number of things she dealt with, like not wanting to get out of the pool when a lot of people were around and not wanting to go shopping, especially at a store where you knew you’d never fit into anything. And don’t even get me started on trying to pick out Halloween costumes…

Yet, despite the fact that I could relate to a lot of what Will was going through, I still found myself disconnected from her. Her character growth had this weird up-and-down progress – sometimes, it seemed like she was growing and maturing and then, out of nowhere, she would take a huge step back. I didn’t completely mind this, because it felt very realistic – in life, we all have our ups and downs! But otherwise, her character just felt flat.

To be honest, I felt disconnected from all the characters. I couldn’t tell Amanda and Hannah apart for much of the story. Ellen was a pretty crappy friend to Will (though Will wasn’t much better to Ellen). Bo had some epic moments where I adored him, but otherwise I didn’t really care one way or another about him – and I’m not convinced of the chemistry between him and Will. I just didn’t see any sparks fly. I could see them as friends and, maybe over time, they could become more. But I just didn’t see that instant connection that most YA couples have. Same with Mitch. I sort of liked Millie, but I feel like we didn’t get to know her enough.

Will’s mom really annoyed me, though, I’ll definitely say that. I wish I didn’t know what it felt like to have a fat-shaming family member, but I do. So her words stung and I really wanted to slap her. Also, Callie. She reminded me of all the bullies who taunted me all throughout elementary, middle and high school.

Basically, what I mean when I say I felt “disconnected” from the characters is that.. I could relate to a lot of what they were going through, but I never felt like I was being pulled into the story. I liked some of the characters, but I never really cared what happened to them.

The ending was very underwhelming and felt very open-ended. I felt like a lot of the storylines were left dangling, like there was no sense of finality to the book. Honestly, I was shocked when I reached the last page – I kept trying to swipe my iPad, thinking there HAD to be another few pages.

Overall, I definitely love the body positivity message this book sends and I had so many moments where I could relate to Will. The pacing was perfect – I read 80% of the book in just a matter of hours. And it wasn’t necessarily a bad read… I just didn’t connect with the story as I’d hoped to. But I seem to be in the minority when it comes to this book – the majority of my friends and fellow bloggers LOVED it. So I still definitely recommend it! I’m still excited to read Murphy’s other book, Side Effects May Vary, and I’m excited to see what her third book will be about, as well.


4 thoughts on “Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

  1. Great Review! I’m hoping to get my hands on this sometime soon. I loved that you talked about not being able to connect to the characters. This can be problematic for me and I can lose interest if I don’t feel anything for the characters. I’m intrigued now to see how my experience of reading Dumplin’ is going to go.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! I tried to be fair and discuss the good and bad. I was super sad I didn’t enjoy this more, but I know other people LOVED it!

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