Book Review | Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I don’t doubt for a second you’ve heard of this book. Nor do I doubt you’ve watched the Netflix series. I’m here today to talk a little about both (mostly the book!). 

For August, I decided to randomly generate my TBR. This is the book I was least looking forward to because there’s so much negativity surrounding the content. 

There is a lot that I want to say in regards to this book, so let’s get down to it. 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

Mental Health

Hannah’s mental health is never really properly addressed and I have mixed feelings about this aspect of the novel. She never seeks help. Sorry, I can’t consider her going to the English teacher/guidance counselor as seeking help… Her parents never really question what’s going on with her. The mental health aspect of this book did not live up to what I hoped for. 

Let me be clear about this. I am NOT saying Hannah NEEDED a diagnosis to justify her actions. The tapes were simply a glimpse into her thoughts that lead up to her actions. Honestly, the reviews stating Hannah had no reason to take her own life make me really angry because YOU, angry reviewers, can’t decide what makes the actions of another person worthy. 

So I’m torn because I wish she would have brought her ideations to the attention of someone other than the English teacher/guidance counselor. That man did not have the proper training to intervene with a suicidal teenager. He did not have the proper credentials and that’s the part of this book that makes me so mad.

I understand Hannah was seeking help where she thought she could get help, but it also makes me question her relationship with her parents. My mother was always really perceptive of the mental health of her children, so I wonder what could possibly be more important (sorry, the mall going up wasn’t reason enough for me) than Hannah in her mother’s world. 

Basically, I wanted there to be a message in this book that it’s okay to seek treatment and I was disappointed that it was lacking. 

The Tapes

I’m going to come right out and say I enjoyed reading this format of story telling. I like the idea of hearing the story through the point of view of the person telling their story, while simultaneously reading another character’s POV. It was interesting and engaging. 

The content is another story…  

The Main Idea

Look, it’s really hard to do justice for a book that deals with such heavy topics. Am I doing okay so far? I think I am, but I’m also treading really carefully to not anger readers. This is hard. 

I saw the main idea of this story not as Hannah’s taking of her own life. Instead, I saw the main idea as treating others with respect or at least being mindful of how we interact with other people. I didn’t like that this was almost a placing blame game, but it certainly has made me more mindful of the ways in which I speak to other people. 

I don’t think the author’s main idea for this book centered around placing blame. In fact, I really believe his whole point was to make other people see that the way they treat people can affect them. You don’t get to decide you didn’t hurt someone. That’s what I think Jay Asher was trying to drive home. And I, for one, think he did a hell of a job doing it. I don’t think he could accomplish this without the seriousness that is suicide. 

Overall

I’m not going to sit here and spout praises for this book. I liked the writing, but the content was disturbing. It’s not as deeply disturbing as the show (good God), but still, it’s there. I would not recommend this to everyone, in particular I wouldn’t recommend this to someone struggling with suicide ideation. Nor would I recommend it to someone who is struggling with depression without help. It’s hard to read, but at the same time, the writing is so goddam captivating I couldn’t stop reading. 

One more thing.

I hated the ending. Like, what the fuck. 

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I thought I was going to have to gift this to the library, but I’m definitely keeping it. 

Let’s Chat!

I don’t always like to read books that are as heavy as this. I have a few in my collection though (trying to be a well-rounded home librarian). What are some books you liked that feature heavy content like this? I’m looking at The Way I Used to Be as my next hard to handle book, but I’m open to other options. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Book Review | Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

I make efforts to read diverse books.

I especially like books with non-straight narrators or characters, but the selling point for me was not that the main character was bi-sexual. The selling point was the setting.

An amusement park in summer? I can’t think of a more perfect summer reading option than a book set in summer at an amusement park.

I mean, I live pretty close to a pretty large chain amusement park (this is a thing right?) but I grew up near a local amusement park and my days at this park were always some of the best.

Reading this book was almost like vicariously living through a character to live out my high school dream of being able to work at my local amusement parks.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places. 

Elouise and Seeley

They have the best version of best friendship. I loved Seeley’s character. She’s much more than her wild colored hair and I just loved her sassy, sarcastic attitude.

Elouise was not always my favorite but in all fairness, most leading ladies never are my favorite. There’s always something about the leading ladies in YA novels that makes me want to shake them and say “LOOK BITCH!” Elouise is no exception. She’s incredibly dense, but so lovable. I was rooting for her the whole time, even though I was rooting against what she thought she wanted.

A teensy tiny bit of cliche

There’s a fake relationship in this novel.

If you’ve read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before you know how this goes.

I’ll leave it at that.

Bi Girls Date Girls for Boys Attention?

This is something I’ve read a lot of on Goodreads lately, especially in regards to this book. I don’t see it that way at all though. If Elouise fake-dated someone for the attention of her crush, don’t you think she’d be walking around in all her PDA glory for said attention? Or is that just me? Spoiler alert: that’s totally not the case.

I don’t get some of the internet critics so if you are one, can you enlighten me please?

Overall thoughts

You all know I love a good debut. This one was decent. Totally a cutesy summer story about love and friendship and it was exactly what I needed when I picked it up.

Overall, I wasn’t disappointed and if Jennifer Dugan writes another book I’d read it. She has a really sweet writing style that I can’t stop thinking about.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟💫

This was v cute (my goodreads review lol).

Let’s chat!!

What’s your favorite childhood summertime memory? It doesn’t have to be childhood, but a favorite summertime memory in general.

My favorite summer memory involves a trip to San Diego to visit my bestie when I was about 24. We went to Disneyland on that trip and it was one of the best days of my life.

Book Review | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

There’s just something about Rainbow Rowell’s writing that makes me so happy. I loved Eleanor and Park (can’t believe we’re getting a movie) and that in itself prompted me to pick up more works from the author.

Fangirl was not high on my list of Rowell books to read though. Fanfiction really isn’t my thing – I’ve read one fanfiction series and cringed hard – so I wasn’t really tempted to pick this up.

But I found a copy of Fangirl for a really good price at Half Price Books and thought “why not?” I couldn’t find any other Rainbow Rowell books while shopping, so I grabbed a copy of this and put it on the backburner for months.

And then I read (and disliked) The Spectacular Now and knew I needed to pick something that would quickly engross me. Fangirl had been sitting in my book cart since I purchased it and something about the cover called out to me.

I finally read it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Levi + Cath

Since Cath’s relationships seem to be a forerunner of this novel, I wanted to talk about Cath and Levi first. From the moment we’re introduced to him, I suspected he would be a love interest. It was not an unexpected surprise that they ended up together to me.

Honestly, I felt like Levi was the perfect love interest for Cath from the moment we met him. He’s sweet and funny and so supportive of Cath. That she would believe he was dating her roommate was really funny to me because I thought it was so obvious he cared for Cath. I really, genuinely, loved Levi.

Cath + Wren

Ugh. Twins? Cool. Named Cather and Wren – WHY?

I didn’t mind the twin thing. Honestly, Cath and Wren might be my favorite twins since the Weasleys. I did mind that Wren was an absolute jerk to Cath for a large portion of the book. I get it, but I’m still mad about it.

Mental Health, Writing Relationships, and More!

As a young woman who has struggled with anxiety her whole life, it made me happy to read a book that centers around mental health – particularly mental health in college aged students. Mainly my anxiety started to manifest when I went away to college – change is especially difficult when managing my anxiety so reading about Cath and her issues with her mental health made her feel incredibly real to me.

Also, what the heck was the deal with Nick? I’m so confused about his character. He was developed and not important enough to get more about him, but I’m curious about why he is the way he is.

Regan was probably my favorite in how she dealt with Cath. Sometimes we all need an abrasive friend to get us out of our shells (Ryan, if you’re reading, you’re that friend!). I loved the dynamic between these two because the friendship seemed so unlikely – in the very best way.

Concluding Thoughts

Rainbow Rowell certainly is one of my favorite writers. Something about the way she writes helps the characters feel so real. She leaves me wanting more from the characters and I feel sad when her books are over and I know there’s no sequel. Honestly, I feel like as long as she publishes books, I’ll be over here devouring them. Her writing is so dang compelling to me.

In essence, I loved this. It was sweet, smart, and engaging. Relatable on a level I didn’t expect. Honestly, I am Cath, Cath is me.

I didn’t even mind the snippets of fanfiction…

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

Let’s Chat!

What’s your favorite Rainbow Rowell book? How about your favorite character from Rowell’s work? Let me know in a comment.

So far my favorite has been Eleanor and Park with Park as my favorite character. Cath is a close second!

Book Review | The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Books can often sit on my TBR for years before I reach for them. I decided to pick up The Spectacular Now when I saw the movie adaptation on Netflix. I wanted to go into my reading experience blind, so I did not watch the movie until after I finished the book (I still haven’t, actually).

I have some thoughts.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

Miles Teller’s Voice

This is the weirdest part of the review – I promise. The whole time I was reading this book, I could hear Miles Teller’s voice. I know I kept picturing Miles as Sutter because I know he plays Sutter in the film adaptation. It’s weird because at time of writing this part of the review (and at time of reading the book and writing this review) I haven’t seen the movie….

What was the point?

Honestly, this is my biggest qualm with the book. I enjoyed the writing, but when I finished, I was a little confused about what the point the author was driving home was. It seemed… pointless. This is fine, but I take issue with it because this book was a National Book Award finalist. I’d like to understand why. I mean, I get it…

Normally, as a book draws nearer to the end, I feel sad – I couldn’t have been happier to finish this book. I legitimately DID NOT get the point the author was trying to drive home. All I could really see, surface level, was the teenage boy from high school who doesn’t care about anything but drinking and smoking weed. The book honestly made me super sad.

Body image

You might be thinking, “Brittany, why are you bringing up body image on a male narrated book?” Well, reader, I’m bringing it up because I HATED that Sutter kept pointing out that his (ex) girlfriend was fat. Like, he literally references the size of Cassidy almost every time he mentions her and it got on my last nerve.

I didn’t expect this to be such a trigger for me, to be frank. But I just can’t get on board with a male author and male narrator pointing out a woman’s weight every time she’s mentioned. I wanted more about Cassidy (hell, Aimee for that matter) than body or image types. I wanted more about their character – not their physical appearances. Personalities matter too, y’all!

Concluding thoughts

Remember #probablynotforme? This probably fits the bill for that. I think I hated this book. Not quite bane of my existence level hatred, but I did not enjoy this and can’t see myself reaching for another Tim Tharp novel anytime soon. I did enjoy the writing style, but found the characters SO damn annoying; I couldn’t look past this!

Rating: 🌟🌟

Let’s chat!

Did you read The Spectacular Now? Maybe you’ve seen the film… In any case, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below!

Book Review | They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

I went into this book knowing how it would end. For some reason, I kept holding on to the hope that it wouldn’t happen and was still surprised when it did happen. Adam Silvera absolutely destroyed me with this book and now I have to go read everything he has ever written.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Silvera’s Writing

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the need to really dissect a person’s writing, but I loved the writing in this too much to wait to talk about it. Adam Silvera somehow manages to voice two entirely different characters in this book beautifully. You know what, strike that. He manages to voice every single character in this book differently and I’m so impressed by the use of these different voices. Honestly, I don’t know how someone manages to perfectly voice multiple characters without them sounding the same, but this guy has got that down.

I would have known who was speaking through the multiple viewpoints without the name headings at the top of each chapter. He’s that talented. Look, I’m just saying THIS is what I envy about writers – the ability to produce characters who don’t all sound exactly the same.

Lovable Main Characters

Rufus and Mateo are seriously two of the most lovable characters I’ve read in a long time. Even though Rufus is a little rough around the edges when we meet him, when he links up with Mateo, I just fell in love with both of them. Seriously, I think the reason I held out hope that Death Cast called them by mistake because they were so lovable.

Mateo is a super nice guy – the kind of person I want my sons to be. I really appreciated the nods back to Mateo’s acts of kindness throughout this book. It made his kindness feel more authentic in a way. And I really loved Rufus’ genuine love for his friends. I enjoyed reading about how much Roof loves his friends as much as I enjoyed how kind Mateo was.

General Thoughts

Overall, I couldn’t put this book down. I mean, I had to, but I didn’t want to. It is so good at reminding readers of the importance of living. I’m very much like Mateo – introverted, shy, and would rather stay at home all day with my books, but this book left me wanting to live like Rufus – boldly. That’s the main theme behind the story – to live boldly. And it’s exactly what I needed to pull me out of a slight slump I’ve been feeling.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Let’s chat!

What book reminded you that it’s important to live life to the fullest? What’s your favorite Adam Silvera book? If you could ask these characters anything – what would it be? Let’s chat in the comments.

Book Review | The Lost Causes by Alyssa Schwartz and Jessica Etting

I try to prioritize my books as first in, first read. This doesn’t always work out, but it’s how I at least attempt to manage my incredible TBR pile. Sometimes, though, I want to read books I’ve recently purchased because they sound promising enough. This was the case with The Lost Causes.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Misfits. Outcasts. And the only ones who can find a killer.

They’re the last people you’d ask to help with anything, much less a murder investigation. The rich girl, the obsessive, the hypochondriac, the addict and the hot-tempered athlete—people think they’re beyond help. Lost causes. But where the world sees losers, the FBI sees its only hope.

With the help of a dangerous serum, the FBI erases the teens’ past problems and unlocks a psychic ability within each of them. In return, all they have to do is help find the killer who’s turned their small town upside down.

But as they close in on a suspect, they expose a conspiracy that puts them directly in harm’s way and makes them wonder who—if anyone—they can really trust.

If anything happens to them, will anyone even care?

Interesting Characters

Perhaps what I found most interesting about this book was the characters. Each of them had some defining characteristic that captured my interest really well. Z is clinically depressed. Gabby has OCD. Justin is unexplainably angry and violent. Sabrina self-medicates. Andrew is a hypochondriac. I liked that this story shed light on the issues that can plague teenagers. I liked that these characters all functioned through their dysfunctions. And I really liked that this was the principle behind the novel.

I guess I didn’t like that their parents were horrible – I mean, it’s hard for me, as a parent, to imagine just giving up on my kids like the parents in this novel. I understand that this is a driving factor in this book, but I still didn’t like it.

I enjoyed that the group bonded together after the ingested the serum. It was really nice to have five messed up teenagers find something in common with each other and remain friends throughout the book. They needed each other, and they found each other. I loved that.

Intriguing Plot

I enjoyed the ride of this book. It was really fast paced (and if I’d had time to finish it over a weekend, I would have). The characters invested me in the story, but trying to solve the mystery kept me engaged in the story. There were some twists I didn’t expect along the way as well.

There were, of course, some holes in the plot. I can’t deny that, but I don’t mind. I just take this as something that’s always going to be a factor in literature. You can’t tie up ever loose end and that’s fine!

I was on board with this story until the end. For me, it just felt really abrupt and ridiculous. It didn’t make sense to me. (I will say, this could be just a me thing because I stayed up late to finish this book on a work-night).

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟💫

It could have been better, but I’d still recommend it to people who like trying to solve mysteries. I honestly would have rated it a 4 if the ending had been better. This, again, is a me thing.

Let’s Chat!

Do you like books by dual authors? Let’s discuss in the comments!

February Wrap-Up | 2019

I understand that we’ve passed the mid point of March already and I should have had this posted ages ago. I’m not really sorry because I was waiting to post this until after I’d already posted all of my reviews for February.

The time has finally come!

February was a strong reading month for me in terms of quantity. I read 12 books!

And the books I read are… *drumroll*

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

After Youby Jojo Moyes

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Dumplin’by Julie Murphy

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All of my reviews are linked above, if you want to know my thoughts on a specific book. Otherwise, here are some stats because statistics are fun!

Pages Read: 4,446

Average Rating: 3.7 stars

In my opinon, it was a great reading month for me driven forward by easy to read young adult novels. Reading this many books at the front of the year really helped me put a dent in my goal for the year too. I’m definitely going to be slowing down after March though. Stay tuned for my next post to find out why!

Did you read any really wonderful books in February? What were they? Leave me a comment so I can add your faves to my TBR. 🙂

Book Review | A Sky for Us Alone by Kristin Russell

A Sky for Us Alone was among my most highly anticipated books of 2019. I knew, from the second I read the synopsis, that I’d want to read it. Let’s talk about whether it lived up to my expectations.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

In Strickland County, there isn’t a lot of anything to go around. But when eighteen-year-old Harlowe Compton’s brother is killed by the Praters—the family who controls everything, from the mines to the law—he wonders if the future will ever hold more than loss. Until he meets Tennessee Moore.

With Tennessee, Harlowe feels for the first time that something good might happen, that he might’ve found the rarest thing of all: hope. Even as she struggles with the worst of the cards she’s been dealt, Tennessee makes Harlowe believe that they can dare to forge their own path—if they only give it a shot.

But as Harlowe searches for the answers behind his brother’s death, his town’s decay, and his family’s dysfunction, he discovers truths about the people he loves—and himself—that are darker than he ever expected. Now, Harlowe realizes, there’s no turning back.

A powerful story of first love, poverty, and the grip of the opioid crisis in the rural South, Kristin Russell’s gorgeous debut novel asks a universal question: When hope seems lost, are dreams worth the risk?

Opioid Struggles

One of the aspects that’s at the forefront of this novel is the struggle with opioids. It’s sad, and makes this story feel really real. Especially because the drug use hits so close to home for the main characters.

The thing is, even though I read the synopsis and knew the story would deal with the opioid crisis, I still expected it to be meth that got Nathaniel killed. (Call this residual effect from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things). This story felt like it could actually happen and it’s one of the main things I liked about this debut novel.

From there it went south.

Character development

While the characters were believable, I felt they lacked depth. I couldn’t really picture them because they weren’t really described. In fact, aside from context, I didn’t even know Harlowe was FOR SURE a male character until about 25 pages in. Tennessee has blond hair and tanned skin and maybe some freckles – I have no idea what color her eyes are because I can’t remember if it was stated. Harlowe has red hair, but we don’t know that until almost the end. I don’t need crazy character descriptions, but I at least like to be able to picture them. I couldn’t.

Mama Draughn is probably the most stand out character in the book. She’s the only one who didn’t fall flat and literally lives up to her Mama nickname. She is the caretaker of this novel and helps not only Harlowe when his mama goes through her drug struggle, but also Tennessee and Omie when they have their issues with their daddy.

Also, I’ll just say this – one of the more unbelievable aspects of this story is the second straight up murder. There’s no way the person who killed the other person did it because of what happened to him earlier in the book. (Names redacted – NO SPOILERS).

Concluding thoughts

My expectations were high for this one because of the synopsis. While we did gain a little closure at the end of the story, the true end of it was heartbreaking. All Harlowe’s hope that was built up over the course of the novel was completely shattered. I didn’t like the ending. I get that first love is rarely last love, but for this one, I expected it to be.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was well written for a debut and a pretty easy read despite the heavy material. I would buy another of Kristin Russell’s novels should she write more.

However, because of the lack of character depth, I found myself struggling to really get into this book as much as I get into most books. I didn’t really fall into the story like I would if I were able to picture the characters. This, for me, is a big deal breaker in books and therefore I had to lower my rating.

Rating: 🌟🌟💫

Like I said, I would read another of Kristin Russell’s novels, but this one fell a little short for me. I thought it was a great principle on which to build a novel and enjoyed some aspects of it. My question for you is, have you read any other novels that center around the opioid struggle in the south? Drop your recommendations in the comments.

Book Review | Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ hasn’t been on my radar for long. It’s not really that talked about in the Booktune community – and I haven’t really seen it around bookstagram that much either. Maybe I’m not following the right people – those hidden Dumplin’ fans.

Even when the movie dropped on Netflix, I didn’t really see a lot of talk about it. To All the Boys was majorly hyped, but this one… not so much.

When I saw Jennifer Aniston was cast as the mom in the adaptation of Dumplin’, I knew I’d be watching it. But not before having read the book.

So with my Christmas gift card from Barnes and Noble, I bought my copy of Dumplin’.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

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.

Body Positivity

Look, I get that a lot of people don’t think this book was that body positive for a book about body positivity, but I don’t agree with those people. I think Willowdean is really positive in her own skin if we consider the fact that she is a sixteen year old girl. I’ve been slim my whole life, but I haven’t always felt comfortable in my own skin. This is what I think the main point Julie Murphy is trying to drive home. I mean even the MOST confident person in the world probably has struggled with body image issues. I don’t think this is not body positive.

Think about this for a second, Will’s issues don’t rise until her feelings for Bo surface. Who hasn’t been kissing someone and felt less than comfortable in their own skin. Look, maybe I’m oversharing, but I remember my first real kiss with a boy. I never felt so uncomfortable in my life even though I was enjoying myself.

The point I’m trying to make is that Julie Murphy wrote Will really well. She’s confident, but not always overly so. Everyone has issues with their bodies at some point in time.

Love Triangle

This book didn’t need a love triangle. Not at all. That being said, I thought Mitch was really just the sweetest. Obviously I was Team Bo because Will didn’t really even like Mitch.

Honestly, I thought this could’ve been handled better. Mitch was clearly meant to be a friend for Will and I wish that’s what would’ve happened. I didn’t like seeing him get his heart broken. I also didn’t like that his freaking best friend was the biggest asshole at the school. Whatever, the point stands. It didn’t need a love triangle. It made me feel really uncomfortable.

The Misfits

If there’s one thing I love in YA books, it’s a band of misfits coming together to overthrow the ideologies of the people around them. That’s what I loved most about this book.

First of all, Hannah is everything I expect to not fit into a small Texan town. Lesbian: check. Non-white: check. Some random defining feature that everyone makes fun of: check. Big attitude: double check. I liked Hannah simply because of her bluntness. She doesn’t need to fit in, but wants at least one friend. I was happy she found that in Will.

Millie is the happiest person in the book. She doesn’t let anyone hold her down (even her parents). What I liked about Millie is that she remains so positive throughout the book. She’s a close second in the group of misfits.

Amanda is seriously hilarious. Every single time she calls Bo “Peachbutt” I laughed out loud. It was seriously the best. As Millie’s best friend, she’s perfect.

The Friendship (& Rift)

Ellen and Will’s friendship being forged on Dolly Parton was a highlight of this book for me. I love Dolly, but not quite like these girls. Sure, I’ve been known to belt “Jolene” off key, but I don’t know every word to every Dolly song. I don’t worship her. But I loved this aspect of the book. It made me so happy.

The rift in the friendship could easily have been avoided if these two young ladies HAD COMMUNICATED. We don’t ask for much, but like, please explain to each other why you’re mad so we can move on and not waste time on mean girls!

Concluding Thoughts

I finished Dumplin’ on a Thursday and then spent Saturday morning watching the film. It was cute and not quite on par with the book, but good in its own right. I definitely recommend picking up the book before hitting up the movie because of the details lacking in the film.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Yeah that’s right. This one was a solid 5 for me. It made me feel so happy while reading it and I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were so well developed and the storyline captured me. My main issue was with the ending…

Have you ever participated in a beauty pageant before? I haven’t, but I’ve watched a male pageant live before (it was the best!).

One more question: Should I pick up Puddin’? I haven’t read the synopsis so I don’t know if it will give me more of what happens after the pageant or not.