Before I read this, I’d watched it on Netflix, not realising it was based on a book. I thought the Netflix show was great, the cast was fantastic and the story was captivating. I’m happy (but not surprised) to say the book was even better – I read it in one sitting!
Willowdean Dickson is the daughter of a former small-town pageant queen. Despite never quite living up to the daughter that her mother had in mind (her mother nicknamed her dumplin because of the way she looks), Willowdean is perfectly happy with her life. She has an amazing best friend with whom she shares her love for Dolly Parton, and she loves herself.
That is, until she takes a job at the local fast food joint and meets a boy called Bo. She immediately likes him, and is shocked when he seems to like her back. But this starts her second guessing herself and her previous self-assurance disappears.
“But then there was the way Callie looked me up and down. Like I was some kind of abomination. The truth is that I’m mad I felt uncomfortable to begin with, because why should I? Why should I feel bad about wanting to get into a pool or standing around in my swimsuit? Why should I feel like I need to run in and out of the water so that no one has to see the atrocity that are my thighs?”
She decides to fight back by doing the scariest thing she can imagine, entering the beauty pageant that is judged by her (less than supportive) mother. To say it’s a shock to her mum is an understatement, but Willowdean is serious about entering, and ends up the ringleader of several other unlikely beauty queens.
I fell in love with Willowdean from the first page, her character was so relatable to me (although I’d never in a million years be brave enough to do what she did), and I was rooting for her from start to finish. I was a little cross with myself for watching the show on netflix first, as it took away my imagination for the characters and all I could see were the actors, but that’s not too much of a problem because as I said before, I loved the book from the very first page.