Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Unabridged downloadable e-audiobook. ~9 hours. Read by Eileen Stevens. (Review from e-book borrowed from public library.)
Willowdean Dickson is confident and brazenly unapologetic about her size despite being the daughter of a teen beauty pageant-winning mother who takes pride in still fitting her gown from the pageant. Will's confidence is due in large part due to her relationship with her Aunt Lucy, her mother's morbidly obese sister, who died six months earlier of a massive heart attack. Will is still grieving. Her mom has refused to talk about Lucy and she's about to start cleaning out Lucy's room in order to turn it into a crafts room. Lucy basically raised Willowdean to allow Will's single-parent mom to work as an aide in a nursing home and run the pageant yearly. She loved Willowdean unconditionally.
When her secret crush on "private school boy" seems reciprocated, Will swoons into her first kiss until he embraces her and runs his hand over her back-fat, causing her to lose confidence and fear the reactions of her classmates should word get out.
She pities several classmates who are bullied mercilessly, namely another fat girl named Millie and Hannah, who is made fun of because of her crooked teeth. Also unsettling her is her friendship with Ellen. They've been bfs forever, ever since bonding over a shared love of Dolly Parton. But Ellen, has a boyfriend and is considering losing her virginity, which leaves Will feeling even more left behind. Also, Ellen's skinny co-workers openly wonder why she's friends with Willowdean. All this tests their friendship. Ellen supports her decision to enter the beauty pageant, but it is Willowdean's suggestion that Ellen not compete in the pageant that fractures the friendship.
Oh my! How I adore this book! It took me forever to get to because most of the reviews' recommended age is grade 9 and up and I've a hard enough time keeping up with middle grade and younger YA! As soon as it was adapted for movie, I knew I had to read it and put myself on the lo-ong waiting list for the audio. As soon as any YA book is made into a movie, I have fifth graders coming in to check the books out and I have to invite them to go across the street to public library.
The movie cut out most of the frank stuff that caused reviewers to recommend the reading to high school readers. And that is a shame because it's smart and incisive stuff, like deciding to lose one's virginity. I was also sad to see that the Mitchell storyline was cut from the movie. I loved Mitchell and my heart just broke for his earnest self.
But this is supposed to be an audiobook review. Eileen Stevens is a new-to-me narrator and I need to look up what else she's done because her voice was like honey. She differentiated the female characters well. Added bonus: she sounded like a teen.
Dumplin' is the best body-positive book I've read in a long time! It's one all teens should read-with the eyes or with the ears. Just read it! I loved it and can't wait to read its companion, Puddin'.