A quick disclaimer: I would definitely recommend reading Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy before reading this review. While it is just a really great book that you should read just because it’s good, I will also be referencing it a lot, and I don’t want you to be spoiled.
When I read Dumplin’ in August (originally released in 2015), it instantly became my new favorite book. I recommended it to everyone (and I still will). I didn’t think it would ever be topped any time soon. Then I discovered that a sequel, Puddin’, had been released this past May, and I was quickly proven wrong. I loved this book for almost every reason I loved the first one and more.
It’s technically a sequel, but it doesn’t follow Willowdean. Instead, it follows both Millie, an optimist who competed in the pageant with Willowdean, and Callie, a dancer who was one of the mean girls in the first book. They end up getting brought together and have to navigate their lives in junior year of high school together.
I had already loved Millie from the first book, so it didn’t take much of the book to convince me that she was a wonderful person and character. Callie on the other hand … I almost didn’t even recognize her name at first. Then she mentioned the pageant and it all came rushing back: She was the character in the first book that was always mean and judgemental to Willowdean. Murphy didn’t exactly make her likable to the reader. Why was Murphy making her a main character? I didn’t want to like her. I didn’t. At the beginning of the book, Callie makes a bad choice. Undeniably bad. But then she expects us to feel sorry for her when she faces consequences! As someone who is a crazy rule-follower, this idea was just wrong. Not only was she an antagonist of Dumplin’, she was acting like the antagonist of Puddin’ too!
I would have defended my opinion on Callie at the beginning of the book. And then I almost cried in the middle of class while reading one of her chapters and realized that maybe, just maybe, I was wrong. Now, after finishing the book, I can definitively say I was wrong. While everyone will have their own feelings about the characters, I encourage you to be as open minded as possible. After all, if these two books have taught me anything, you should never define a person based on your initial perceptions.
The way this book works so well, though, is that it’s written from first person point of view (meaning you’re hearing directly what Millie and Callie are thinking, I’s and me’s and all). It puts the reader in their shoes, living their lives with them. If we were hearing about certain moments from an omniscient author, they wouldn’t have the same impact that they have when you’re hearing all the feelings directly from the characters themselves.
Moving away from the characters themselves, once again Murphy has left me with a book that gave me all the warm and fuzzy feelings. Yes, it was relatively predictable, yes, I was probably extremely more invested because Millie is interested in journalism, and yes, it was extremely cheesy in some places, but I don’t care. Not every book needs to be some hard-hitting novel that tackles the Hard Issues of the world that makes you stop and rethink everything you thought you understood.
Except … that’s exactly why I loved this book. It’s not presented as if it’s going to change you, but it does. Even from the cover, it looks like it should just be a cheesy teen novel. But it’s so, so much more. If you’ve read Dumplin’, this book is a must-read. It doesn’t just answer some remaining questions about Willowdean, but also is a masterpiece on its own.