Book Review: Dumplin' ~ Julie Murphy

Hi everyone! Wow, it feels really good to be writing a book review again! It’s also hard to believe that it’s been over 2 months since the last one! (Blogger fail) 

So here’s the deal: I liked Dumplin’ in its book form, but I loved Dumplin’ in its movie form, which I saw before I read the book. A cute contemporary read that came with good timing as summer approaches, but there are a few things I have to say, so let’s do it shall we?


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. 

Favorite quotes:

“I think there’s a survival instinct inside all of us that clicks on when we see other people failing. It makes me feel gross and incredibly human.”

Page 329

“This is me. Back me up or back out.”

Page 339

“I may be uncomfortable, but I refuse to be ashamed.”

Page 359

Characters: as you can tell from the synopsis, this book follows three main characters: Wil, her best friend Ellen, and the boy that has caught her eye, Bo. I think the best thing about this book (besides its general cute contemporary vibe) is its characters—both as individuals and their relationships. I think this is a somewhat contested portion of the book when it comes to different reviews, but personally, I appreciated them. Here’s Why: they felt real. There are times in the book where each person feels like a walking contradiction, and for some people, it was annoying. To me, it made sense. Here’s a highly contested passage from the book that highlights this point:

I mean think about it—how many times in your life do you struggle with conflicting emotions/beliefs? I think the quote from Wil that has some people up in arms highlights the arbitrary nature of human emotion: what we believe is fluid, and what we say we believe and what we actually believe don’t always add up.

Then there’s Ellen, who is the “skinny best friend” of the dynamic duo. She also has her moments of contradiction as she wrestles with trying to balance her new friendships and her friendship with Wil. At first, she pretends that she is nothing like the new, stuck up girls that she works with; but later reveals to Wil when they finally make up that she just wanted to be liked by the other girls. Humanity? I think so.

Last but not least, Bo is the typical “trying to be a closed book but actually wants to be with you” guy. In other words, while he’s not exactly wearing his heart on his sleeve, his actions say it all. (Cue the swooning).

Pacing: I have to agree with others who complain about the pacing of the book. To me, it is odd that the main event of the book (the pageant) only comes in the last 50ish pages. This is another reason I loved the movie more than the book—in the book, the pageant almost feels like a shadow of the romance between Wil and Bo, which wasn’t the case in the movie at all. I really disliked how it just sort of comes and goes and that’s the end of the book.

Also: the book totally didn’t go into the same amount of heartwarming details about the friendship between Dumplin’ and the drag queens that the movie did! Disappointing, to say the least.

Chapter length: short and to the point—just how I like it! Long enough to enjoy, but not to get lost and feel the need to flip a few pages forward to see where it ends. (I can’t be the only one who does this occasionally!)

Cliche Count: So obviously, there are quite a few cliches in the book.Can I also just begin by asking where this random love triangle came from?? It wasn’t in the movie—and I am so glad it wasn’t. The story is completely fine without the love triangle, and when I saw it developing the book, there was major eye-rolling action. But besides that, there are the cliches of the skinny white best friend of a fat girl and the coworker → friend → love interest pipeline.

In all…

While I enjoyed certain aspects of Dumplin’ in its book form, I have to say that I think the movie adaptation did the story more justice. The pacing in book form was underwhelming, and the amount of attention the romance got compared to promoting body positivity—which is supposed to be the overarching theme!—was completely skewed. I’d say that if you’re looking for a cute summery YA read that will make you laugh and cringe sometimes, Dumplin’ is the book for you.

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