Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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.

 dumplin

Based on the above blurb, I thought the book would center mostly on the pageant. However, I was sadly disappointed that the pageant doesn’t come into play until halfway through this really slow paced book.

I found the main character Willowdean unlikable and cruel. She was constantly judging other people’s bodies! I was really hoping to read about a different kind of YA character: a confident, sassy big girl who embraces her body.  Instead I got an insecure, selfish chick with boy drama (ugh). There was definitely conflicting messages about body positivity.

Despite the hype and praise, I totally felt underwhelmed by Dumplin’. Perhaps if you don’t have expectations of the book and/or a fan of Dolly Parton music, you may enjoy it.

Favourite quote:

“All my life, I’ve had a body worth commenting on. And if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat, skinny, short, tall, it doesn’t matter.”

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Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

eleanor photo

Tons of buzz happenin’ for this quirky YA book about two misfits falling in love.  It’s mostly a love story, but serious issues like self-esteem, bullying and domestic abuse are also covered through Eleanor and Park’s alternating points of view. I did enjoy their romance (and the brilliant hand holding scenes), but I didn’t get the extremely quick progression from barely looking/speaking to each other to being super in love. Not just in love, but the deep intense infatuation kind of love. It gets so cheesy, as ‘“I don’t like you, Park,” she said, sounding for a second like she actually meant it. “I…”-her voice nearly disappeared-“think I live for you.” (P.111) and “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,” she whispered. (p.111)   

As individuals, both Eleanor and Park are both interesting and flawed teens.  Eleanor is a red-headed, overweight girl with Goodwill clothes and a twisted family dynamic. Park is a small, quiet, insecure Asian kid that feels like an outsider in his own community. The character building was phenomenal and I loved that they weren’t the typical bad boy/hot girl combo we usually get in YA.

One other thing- the story takes place in the year 1986. If it weren’t for the continuous references to 80’s music and the cassette player, I could have easily imagined it to take place in the here and now. It reads very current and contemporary. I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing… bad because I didn’t feel the 80’s vibe, or good because falling in love is timeless? Regardless, I would love to find out why Rowell set her story (besides being totally rad) in the 1980’s.

In the end, Rowell leaves Eleanor and Park’s heartwarming/heartbreaking love story for the reader to interpret.  Plenty of obstacles complicate this awkward, weird, quirky, touching love, but I can’t help but root for these two eccentric outcasts. 

Review: Skinny by Donna Cooner

Goodreads: Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it.

But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own.

 

Expected publication: October 1st 2012 by Scholastic

First things first–I’m really hoping that the publishers listen to us reviewers by replacing their cover model.  The model in no way represents Ever (even at her lowest weight).  This book is all about loving yourself the way you are, and it’s such a shame that the first impression and overall selling image is of a non-curvy girl.

I also could have done without the overdone Cinderella plot (with the two stepsisters, stepmother and all!) Although Cooner adds issues of self-esteem and body image into the mix, there is still the classic story running throughout the entire book.    It is the inclusion of Skinny (a voice inside of Ever’s head) that differentiates the book from others.  Even though Skinny isn’t a real person, she might as well be for overweight teen Ever.  As obesity rates climb, many readers will able to relate to Ever as they too, likely experience a sort of ‘Skinny’ that influences their daily lives.  When Ever undergoes risky gastric bypass surgery, I think Cooner did a good job at not glamourizing the surgery.  Information about the surgery is given in a non-preachy way and both the good and bad effects (physical/emotional) are presented.  It’s interesting to note that in the author’s acknowledgements, Cooner discloses that like Ever, she too underwent gastric bypass surgery.  This real life experience undoubtedly helped to create the emotional character of Ever.

Overall, gastric bypass will unlikely be a viable option for most readers, and I do wish that Cooner made Ever more thoughtfully consider the likelihood of complications and death. I feel like it was an easy fix.  However, as mentioned, many readers will be able to relate to ‘Skinny’ and the take away message about loving yourself and being confident in your abilities always serves as a great reminder to teens.

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