Though she has been exposed to the pageant world all her life, Willowdean Dickson, Will for short, is not what you might consider typical “beauty pageant material.” She is a self-proclaimed fat girl and she doesn’t care much what anyone else thinks.

She doesn’t let her weight stop her from putting on a swim suit and going to the pool with her best friend, Ellen, on hot summer days. She is fearless and funny and loves Dolly Parton more than anything else in the world. Her music, her hair, and the way she dresses—what’s not to love?! Willowdean shared this love of Dolly with her mom’s sister, Lucy, who lived with them. But now her aunt is gone and it’s just Will and her mom again.

Though she loves her mama, she is pretty sure they are from different planets. Her mother is in charge of the annual Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant. Not only was she crowned queen of the pageant in her glory days, but she continues to eat, breathe and live the pageant life. Willowdean has never shown the slightest interest in any of that, and besides, she wouldn’t fit in with all those girls.

But then Willowdean finds her Aunt Lucy’s unfinished pageant application from years ago. Her aunt was fat too, and not nearly as glamourous as her sister. As she looks back, she realizes her aunt hid behind her weight and let it close her off from the rest of the world. Will decides she will not let her own weight stop her from doing what she wants to do and being whom she wants to be. She is entering this year’s beauty pageant for Lucy. There’s no rule that says fat girls need not apply. This inspires other outcasts to enter as well and throws the pageant world for a loop. “It’s gonna be like a protest in heels.” They feel like they are part of a revolution and there are plenty of heartfelt and laugh-out-loud moments to follow.

I loved this book. It was funny and real. It’s about confidence and self-doubt.

Friendship and loyalty and family. Fast food restaurants and first crushes. Dolly Parton drag queens and red candy suckers. It was full of heart and humor and you can’t help rooting for Willowdean and her friends. Though this book is considered Young Adult, anyone can appreciate the witty writing, the quirky characters, and the inspiring and funny story.

I listened to this audiobook on Libby. The southern accent of the reader made me love this book even more! There are a wide variety of audio and e-books available on Libby. If you haven’t tried it yet, check it out! It will expand your reading world by leaps and bounds and puts so many great books right at your fingertips. Just download the app and sign in with your library card number and your last name as your pin (all lowercase letters). Check our website or call the library for more information about the Libby app.

Dumplin’ was also made into a movie in December 2018, available on Netflix.

Jennifer Aniston plays Willowdean’s pageant-crazy mama with Danielle Macdonald as a spot-on Willowdean. Check out the trailer for this movie and I’m sure you’ll be hooked!

You may also like Julie Murphy’s book, Puddin’, which is a companion book to Dumplin’. It follows supporting characters from the first book after the Bluebonnet pageant.

Read the books, watch the movie and start a revolution of your own!