Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Teen Tuesday

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (Balzer + Bray hardcover, 15 September 2015).

Willowdean Dickson has no problems being fat. She owns it.  

Having been heavy since she was a child, Will has come to terms with her weight. Her mother Shirley, had young Willow on fad diets before she was eleven.  Now that Will is a teenager, the overt attempts have ended, but the tacit campaign continues, with Shirley inviting her daughter to watch programs on television about people who've lost a lot of weight.  

Despite being a former beauty queen (Miss Teen Blue Bonnet 1977!), Shirley insists that she's more interested in Will's health than her appearance.  The recent death of Shirley's sister Lucy, who weight neatly 500 pounds supports that, but Will is just not sure.

Shirley now runs the Pageant, which, along with the high school football team, is the Clover City's only claim to fame.  Will could live with that until her best friend Ellen decided to enter. Not only that, but Ellen's started hanging around with Callie, whom she met at Pageant Boot Camp, and who treats Will like a freak.  

But  Bo, the cute guy that Will works with, doesn't seem to mind her size.  Or does he? The only time they spend together apart from work is making out behind the old elementary school.  

I would like to say only that Willowdean's method of dealing with this is completely unexpected, but it has already been revealed in the promotional blurbs (which I seldom read before reviewing books).

Will decides that the only way to regain her self-confidence is to enter the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant herself, convincing a few other unconventional candidates to join her, and prove that they have just as much right to compete as the skinny girls do.

Like "rape culture", "fat-shaming"  (both terms that I find irksome) has become a hot-button issue recently, though so far, there aren't as many current young adult titles* on the topic. Dumplin' is a well-conceived and -written exploration of a young woman's method of dealing with it.  

*See also Sugar, by Deirdre Riordan Hall (Amazon/Skyscape, June 2015), which I reviewed for School Library Journal (May 2015).

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me with the e-galley to review.

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