Y’all, I am really tired of giving three-star reviews. I have certainly given more three-star reviews this year than I have in a long time. Maybe that’s because I’ve been reading a lot more than I used to, or maybe it’s because I’ve gotten pickier with what I like, and don’t like, in books.
Unfortunately, Dumpin’ falls solidly into the three-star category. I found it 100% meh.
Our hero, Willowdean Dickinson, is a self-proclaimed fat girl who has never been bothered by her size. She’s always had better things to focus on her – friends, school, work, and above all, Dolly Parton. Willowdean’s body positivity is the best part of the story.
“I know that fat girls are supposed to be allergic to pools or whatever, but I love swimming. I mean, I’m not stupid. I know people stare, but they can’t blame me for wanting to cool off. And why should it even matter? What about having huge, bumpy thighs means that I need to apologize?”
But Willowdean soon finds her confidence racked when she starts hanging out with Bo, a brooding teenage heartthrob she meets at work. Bo likes her, really likes her, but Willowdean finds herself terrified of his touch.
“The reality of him touching me. Of him touching my back fat and my overflowing waistline, it makes me want to gag….. I see myself in comparison to every other girl he’s likely touched. With their smooth backs and trim waist”.
As a way to regain her confidence, Will decides to enter the Miss Ten Blue Bell beauty pageant, of which her mother is a former winner and current director. I loved the concept of this – like Miss Congeniality but body-positive! But the pacing of this book is really weird, and the pageant doesn’t actually start until the last few chapters.
A huge portion of the book is devoted to a love triangle between Willowdean, Bo, and Mitch, another sweet and lovable guy vying for Willowdean’s attention.
I get how there is a valuable message in seeing Willowdean, who does not fit into our rigid conventional beauty norms, being sought after by two handsome and popular boys. But the number of pages devoted to her agonizing over the boys is staggeringly boring. The love triangle doesn’t even have any impact on the beauty pageant story. Willowdean does not handle herself well in the love triangle, as she leads Mitch on to keep her mind off Bo – who she broke things off with. I get it, teenagers don’t always act responsibly with other people’s hearts, but it’s also hard to root for a main character when you hate how she’s treating the people around her.
So anyway, I mostly like this book because I’m glad a book with this message exists, not actually because I like the plot or the story. The beauty pageant storyline offered so much potential, but it is totally derailed by a pointless love triangle and a mostly-unlikable main character.