Willowdean (Will) Dickson is a “Cashier, Dolly Parton enthusiast, and resident fat girl.” She lives in a Texas town called Clover City (“the type of place you leave”), and has always been overweight. Will is reasonably confident in herself, or at least she used to be. Lately she’s been wavering with self-doubt. She’s also missing her aunt Lucy who died six months ago.
Will’s mother, Rosie Dickson, works in a retirement home and spends much of her spare time involved in the organisation of Clover City’s Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant. Her claim to fame is that she won the pageant in 1997 and can still fit in her fancy pageant dress. She’s the one who calls Will Dumplin’. Will and her mum don’t always understand each other. That’s possibly never more true than when Will decides to enter the beauty pageant.
Ellen Dryver is Will’s best friend, and in many ways her opposite. Ellen and Will have been friends for years, but they seem to be drifting apart. The differences could not be more obvious in their choice of casual employment. Ellen works at Sweet 16, one of those clothes shops for teenage girls where there’s nothing over a size 12. Will works at Harpy’s Burgers & Dogs.
Bo Larsen also works at Harpy’s. He’s moody, enigmatic and hot. He always sucks on red lollipops, and recently he’s been behaving unusually around Will, who he insists on calling by her full name, Willowdean. Boys like Bo aren’t interested in girls like Will, are they?
Then there’s Millie, Hannah, and Amanda, each of whom has trouble fitting in, Tim who is Ellen’s boyfriend, and Mitch, the big, sensitive footballer who knew Will in sixth grade. They all have their part to play in Will’s story, as do others.
If you’ve ever felt different, uncertain, or doubted yourself, and who hasn’t really, you are bound to recognise and empathise with the characters in this story, and the journeys they take. I urge you to find a copy of Dumplin’ and read it, then pass it on. You won’t regret it.
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Penguin, $17.99 RRP
Publication Date: September 2015
For ages: 15+
Type: Young Adult Fiction