Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia
Willowdean, known by most people as Will, but always Dumplin’ to her mother, is a fat teenager who is actually rather comfortable with herself. She lives with her mother Rosie, a former beauty queen who is still very active in organizing the pageant. When Will starts working at a local fast food joint, she meets Bo who works there, too. He is a hot, private school jock – and he is also likeable and seems to be into Will. Will doesn’t know how to deal with that and finds herself doubting where she was always confident before. To give herself a confidence boost, she decides to compete in her mother’s pageant – horrifying her mother and inspiring some other girls who never thought they would to go for it, too.
Dumplin’ is a fun, cute and above all quick read that is easily devoured and says a lot of smart things about being fat while it’s at it. I really enjoyed it.
Dumplin’ is a novel filled with extremely likeable characters, above all Dumplin’ of course, but I liked pretty much everyone of the protagonists – also the two guys that turn the novel into a quasi love triangle. I was glad that the triangularity was limited, though.
It’s that kind of group feeling that made the novel for me – that Will doesn’t remain the only not traditionally beautiful girl to compete in the pageant was really important for me. As was the fact that there was more than one fat girl in the novel – and what’s more: they are even allowed to be friends with each other. Simply lovely.
Not everything worked so perfectly for me, though. I’m a little conflicted about the fact that Bo is so pretty: yes, it was great that we get to see a beatiful boy fall for a fat girl, but at the same time, it wouldn’t have hurt to see a fat or otherwise not conventionally attractive boy also get some love. Another point where I wasn’t entirely happy were the inspirational drag queens whose only role is to help Will. It felt a bit “sassy gay friend” like to me.
But overall, Dumplin’ is a sweet and funny novel that has a serious and true core about being fat and about how a fat hating society screws with fat people even when they are pretty confident. And that just being wanted isn’t enough to solve all those issues. And how this all plays into a larger issue of lookism.
We absolutely and almost desperately need books like that – and by we I mean both society at large and fat girls and women like me in particular.
Summarizing: A really good read.