Making the Grade / Dumplin’


Making the GradeHow was your weekend, friends? Mine was all sorts of wonderful, and I’m hoping for an excellent week ahead. To start your Monday on a good note, I’m sharing a new Making the Grade review for Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’, which hits shelves tomorrow. Enjoy!


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. {Goodreads}

Main Characters: A+
Dumplin’ is a character-driven story, and all I can think to say is: thank goodness it is! It’s difficult to forget a book with a protagonist as unique, confident, and relatable as Willowdean Dickson, daughter of a former pageant queen, a loyal Dolly Parton fan, and, as she says with pride, the town’s “resident fat girl.” Will navigates the tricky path that is being a teenager with a consistent tone of sass and humor, keeping readers engaged from beginning to end, and her emotions, worries, and mistakes never veer to an unrealistic path. This character development earns thumbs up all around.

Supporting Characters: A
Of course, a protagonist’s story isn’t complete without a cast of supporting characters to supplement their journey. Author Julie Murphy’s talent for dynamic development extends to Will’s friends, family, and peers, including her longtime best friend Ellen and her longtime crush and fast food joint co-worker Bo. Like Will, none of the supporting characters are perfect – they fight, they display poor judgement, and they hold on to grudges – but that’s life, and Murphy writes of it so well. The romance, a love triangle, proves tiring in the middle of the book, but Will’s positive and inspiring friendships more than make up for the slow pacing.

Plot: A
Those I know who dislike realistic fiction complain of the lack of action, that the genre is not interesting enough for their taste. I’ve long disagreed with that statement, but Dumplin’ only further proves my point. Will’s life is relatively normal for a teenager: she attends school, she has a part-time job, and she like to hang out with her friends, but it’s far from boring. From extravagant pageant rehearsals to late nights serving burgers, the events of Will’s life carry her on a journey to self-assurance and readers on an incredible read. Theme is important here too; confidence and self-love serve as backdrops to the various storylines.

Writing: A
I hadn’t read Murphy’s debut, Side Effects May Vary, when I began her sophomore novel, but I can’t wait to get to it now! Entertaining, empowering, and insightful to boot, Murphy’s writing suits Will’s body-positive story well, and it had me, someone who rarely writes or marks quotes, bookmarking pages left and right. My favorite? “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.” It’s one of many gems in the four hundred pages.

Final Grade: A
I’m glad I have a copy of Dumplin’ for my shelves, for if I didn’t, I would certainly be grabbing one to read it again! You’ll surely see many positive reviews for Murphy’s new release pop up this week, and the praise is well deserved. To sum it up: Will is an outstanding main character, her friends and family show a similar level of development, and the plot will have you reading it in one sitting. You really can’t go wrong.

Will you read Dumplin‘? Have a lovely Monday! :)

7 thoughts on “Making the Grade / Dumplin’

  1. YES! I finished this book recently and loved it just as much as you did. I thought Willowdean was so charismatic and fun to read about. Most importantly, this book carried such a strong message. Wonderful review, Bella!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] Finally, Julie Murphy’s stellar writing won me over in her second book, Dumplin‘, a story that stars character Willowdean Dickson, a Dolly Parton aficionado and self-proclaimed “fat girl.”  Murphy’s relatable style and realistic plot had me recommending it left and right this past fall, an action I’m sure to repeat once I read Side Effects May Vary. I can never get enough new authors or new books. {review} […]


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