Review: Dumplin’

This uplifting novel by Julie Murphy tells the story of self-proclaimed fat-girl Willowdean Dickson, “dumplin”, and the All-American hobby – beauty pageants. Willowdean knows she isn’t like the fresh-faced beauty queens that mean everything to her former beauty queen mom, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling comfortable in her own skin. With her best friend Ellen at her side and their shared love for Dolly Parton, everything in the world seems okay. That is until Willowdean gets a job at the local fast food joint and meets prep school boy Bo Larson, who Willowdean is surprised to find likes her back. To make a point to her mom, and to all the other girls like her, Willowdean decides to join the beauty pageant. This story is all about young romance, firsts, and body positivity in a world that is struggling to grasp the concept that a bikini body is just a body in a bikini.

Everything about this book exudes positivity and good vibes. First of all, the lead female protagonist is a plus-size girl which is not usually seen in young adult non-fiction books. Many books paint the ideal female lead character as being beautiful and thin as a way to relate to the girls that society sees as traditionally beautiful. This book gives diversity and gives many more girls a character that they can relate to. Another thing about Willowdean is that she is extremely strong-willed, determined, and passionate. She stands up to bullies, even if they aren’t bullying her, and she doesn’t let what people say get to her. She learned this from her Aunt, which gives Willowdean an emotional side as well.

Another reason this book is so great is that it challenges the notion that beauty pageants are only for those seen as traditionally beautiful. It gathers a group of characters that are seen as different and joins them together to create the ultimate “protest”, as they call it. They all enter the beauty pageant to prove that beauty is not selective; it is for everyone. They are challenging traditional norms and are not afraid to do it. Talk about girl power.

The other great thing about this novel is that Willowdean not only has a crush on a former prep school jock, but he also has a crush on her. This opens up so many dialogues about plus-sized people being deserving of love on so many levels. Throughout the novel Willowdean has thoughts of insecurity about dating Bo because she believes he should be with someone who looks the opposite of her. She doesn’t think fat girls are his type. But he never once denies how beautiful he thinks she is, and this shows that just because you may be more thin or more pretty doesn’t mean you are more deserving. And Willowdean has this perspective through a greater portion of the book until she realizes that just because someone is a certain type, they are not better. Just because beauty pageants are societally meant for pretty, thin girls doesn’t mean someone of a different body shape can’t enter. It just means they haven’t because they feel they don’t have the option.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that loves girl power and body positivity. It has so many good messages and was beautifully written by Julie Murphy. A Netflix Original movie based on the novel was released in December of 2018, and I would highly recommend that to.

Review: Frat Girl

Frat Girl written by Kiley Roache follows the story of Cassie, a soon-to-be College freshman, who gets to go to her dream college on a paid scholarship, but on one condition – she must conduct a research project over the span of her first year. And what better topic to research than to go undercover in the fraternity known on campus for sexist parties and behaviour – Delta Tau Chi. What seems like it will be the ultimate take down of a frat that should have been disbanded long ago becomes complicated as Cassie begins to form relationships – friendly and romantic – with the guys. Will she be known as a feminist hero or will she be known as the liar?

Personally, I loved this book. I read it within 48 hours because I seriously could not put it down. However, while it was an amazing read it did have its flaws. But, I will discuss those after I point of the many amazing things this novel has to offer. First of all, Cassie is a smart, strong, and brave female character. What kind of girl would be so brave as to rush a fraternity? Also, while she keeps up with her schoolwork she also stays on schedule with her research project.

However, her intentions behind the project are a bit awry at times. In the beginning she claims to be a feminist who wants to get rid of toxic masculinity, but she thinks the best way to do that is by disbanding the frat. This brings about another positive point, because she lives with the frat boys she begins to realize that not all of them are sexist and terrible human beings, but this does not excuse all fraternity behaviour. Her feminist beliefs also bring about another negative as throughout the novel she judges other women, claiming her own roommate isn’t a feminist; and that sorority girls are fake, catty, and cannot be feminists because being in a sorority means being taught to cater to fraternity boys. Eventually this point of view is tackled, but barely. Cassie’s perspective does shift after the climax of the plot, but it is never fully confronted. It is seen as minor character development.

One last flaw is that hazing and binge drinking are mentioned frequently in the book, but they are never written about in a negative light. It is almost seen as normal behaviour. Throughout the novel, certain chapters will be written as Cassie’s notes, but they never once discuss the culture of drinking in frats. I think it would have been extremely effective for Cassie to recognize all of the fraternity’s flaws instead of just picking and choosing.

Overall, with the negatives aside, I would highly recommend this book. These thoughts didn’t even occur to me until after I finished reading and thought about the book which means that through and through I had a very good impression. I think the storyline and the messages in the book are great, and while it is a bit of a longer book, it was very easy to read. I would give it a 10/10 and I would definitely re-read it in the future.

Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before Series

If any of you are avid Netflix watchers then you have probably heard of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. The Netflix original movie made headlines after it was released and is apparently one of the most watched and most repeatedly watched movies on the site, according to Netflix. But what some people don’t know is that the beloved rom-com is based on a 2014 novel of the same name.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was written in by Jenny Han and is the first book out of three. The first book follows 16-year old Lara Jean who loves all things romance. Whenever she feels strongly for someone, she writes them a letter – but she never sends them. That is until her younger sister Kitty finds the five love letters Lara Jean has written and sends them out. When one gets sent to Lara Jean’s older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, Lara Jean has to come up with a solution to fix the mess. Her solution includes pretending to fake-date popular jock, Peter Kavinsky to deflect Josh from thinking she is in love with him. This book, and series, is a page-turner full of romance, drama, and teenage antics.

I had no idea what to expect from the books, seeing as I already read the series. I figured they would be exactly like the movie. However, I was wrong (as should be expected since books are never like the movies). The first book actually followed a different plot than the movie, which shocked me and made me wonder how they will make the second movie since they took it in a different direction.

I thought I wouldn’t love the book as much as I loved the movie, but I was very wrong. The book is much more detailed and provides more backstory than the movie, which is to be expected as how does one fit a 200 page book into an hour and 20 minutes. I almost view the book and the movie as different entities, considering the different plot halfway through the book from the movie. It makes me wonder if I would have loved the movie as much as I did if I had read the detailed book first. Would I have been upset that they took it in a different direction? That they left out seemingly important scenes? Probably, considering thats how I feel about most books turned movies.

However, I love both book and movie equally, especially the series as a whole. I can’t wait for the other movies to be released and to see what direction they take. I would give the TATBILB series a 9/10. I would highly recommend reading this wonderful series to anyone who loves a young adult romance series.