Willowdean Dickson has never really been ashamed of her body. She’ll be the first to make a comment about her weight, she’s nicknamed “Dumplin'” by her mother, her definition of having a bikini body is simply to put a bikini on your body. When she takes a job at Harpy’s, a fast food joint, she meets Bo. She’s definitely attracted to him but she’s surprised to find he might just return her feelings. Her new relationship causes Will to start to doubt herself so in order to take back her confidence, she does something she never thought she’s do: Enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant and she brings several other unlikely entries with her. She’ll show everyone that she belongs up on that stage just as much as any skinny girl.
This was such a fun and touching book to read. I found Will easy to relate to, it had great dynamics between characters, it was funny, poignant, and wasn’t afraid to tackle some tough issues.
I loved Will’s confidence at the start of the book. She was a bigger girl, she knew it, and she wasn’t ashamed of it. That was her, take it or leave it. She had a great personality and she was a character I could definitely see myself becoming friends with if she were real. She had to deal with a lot besides body issues as well. There was the romance with Bo, her awkward relationship with her mother, grief over her aunt’s death, and drifting away from her best friend.
The minor characters were all great. Everyone had a role to play in how they affected Will as a character on her growth arc but they also had their own issues happening that they had to deal with. Whether it was guilt, gaining confidence, standing up to parents, grief, self-discovery, each character went through something and as they dealt with their issues, we saw how it affected and sometimes helped Will.
There were so many great friendship moments. First Will and Ellen, best friends, sharing a love of Dolly Parton and being so supportive of each other. The other girls who join the pageant because of Will end up being really good friends as well and there were so many moments that had me laughing as they all had fun together. The romance ended up being pretty light, though it had a lot of affect on Will’s insecurities and decisions. She and Bo made a cute couple and I was definitely rooting for them. The relationship between Will and her mom was complicated and felt realistic. They both cared but rarely talked, or at least said what they truly meant and her mother had a hard time hearing what Will was trying to say. I was definitely hoping for them to finally sit down and just talk to each other because they needed to stick together.
Any worries I had about the way body issues would be portrayed in this book were gone by the time I was halfway through. Will’s voice was just perfect; confident in herself but with moments of insecurity, a fully formed character that had so much personality and who refused to see herself as just ‘the fat girl’. I thought her confidence made her pretty bad-ass.
I also really loved all the Dolly Parton references throughout the book. They were fun and it made me want to turn on some old Country music to listen to after finishing the book.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.