Published: September 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Edition: Kindle ebook
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Willowdean is a self declared Dolly Parton fangirl, rebel against pageants and a fat girl. After the premature death of her aunt she is left with her pageant obsessed mother, trapped in her wonder years and stuck in a dead end fast food joint job. She meets the moody jock Bo and instantly feels sparks but finds herself wondering if a guy like him could ever like a girl like her?
The main thing I absolutely loved about this book is the overwhelming positive message it sends out to the reader. Willowdean is overweight and talks candidly about it throughout the book in several different situations. She refuses to let her weight stop her from doing what she loves whether it be chilling by the pool or making friends with some drag queens. Willowdean also confronts her mothers reaction to her weight, addressing how the seemingly innocent nickname ‘Dumplin’ is problematic for her.
One of my favourite scenes is where Willowdean is trying on a dress with her mother. The dress is not made for her and doesn’t fit well. Like so many plus size people she is told just to lose a few pounds and it’ll fit better. Of course Willowdean stands up for herself stating that she should stop having to change herself to accommodate the thinner world she lives in. It was a breath of fresh air to read about a bigger girl who wasn’t forced into a ‘makeover’ situation where she is revealed to be a pretty thin girl all along.
The subject of virginity is also tackled in this book in a very healthy way. Willowdeans best friend is looking to lose her virginity to her long term boyfriend whilst Willowdean remains a virgin. This has to be hands down the most realistic representation of teenagers having sex for the first time that I’ve ever read. There are no massive grand gestures and not between two people who have known each other five minutes. It’s a next step for a happy couple and of course a bit of juicy gossip between friends.
Yet another amazing factor to this story is the inclusion of differently-abled young women. From plus size girls to someone living with a serious leg problem. It shows them in such a positive light and gives them depth beyond their disabilities.
The one part of the story I felt was lacking was the romance. I never felt swoony (that should definitely be a word) for Bo and didn’t particularly care for him. I understand most young adult contemporary books have to have a romance interest but I kind of wished it just wasn’t there. I may just have a soft spot for stories about girls doing it for themselves without a man though so who knows.
It’s a fantastic read is you want something apart from the norm that reflects body image issues in a healthy way. Added bonus points for Dolly Parton, drag queens and a cast of fantastic young girls.