I have been hearing really good things about Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy so I recently picked up a copy. I LOVED it! Willowdean Dickson, dubbed “Dumplin’” long ago by her Mom, is not your average YA character. Growing up it was hard for her to be the plus-sized daughter of a former beauty queen who is still heavily involved in the local Miss Blue Bonnet Pageant. Her Aunt Lucy has been there for Will as long as she can remember and made things bearable, never letting Will’s size stop her from doing things she wanted to do. With Aunt Lucy and her best friend Ellen by her side Will feels that she can handle anything that comes her way. It all starts to come crumbling down after her Aunt Lucy passes away. She feels adrift without her and finds that she can’t connect with her Mom the way she could with her Aunt. Will gets a job at a local fast food joint to make some extra money and meets Bo, an incredibly good-looking guy who goes to the nearby private school. When Bo kisses her one night at work she is totally taken aback and when they continue to meet up secretly throughout the summer Will doesn’t know who to turn to when self-doubt creeps in. Will can’t stand their relationship being a secret any longer or the way that being with Bo makes her feel, so she breaks up with him. Can Bo convince Will that he doesn’t want their relationship to be a secret anymore? Will Willowdean and her Mom ever reconcile their differences? I’ll let you find out for yourself but I immediately wanted to read the sequel, Puddin’, it was not available so I have it on hold.
While I was waiting for Puddin’ to be available I saw that we had a copy of one of Julie Murphy’s other books, Ramona Blue. I decided that it sounded like something I would like so I checked it out. I devoured it in two days! I would almost say that I liked it more than Dumplin’, it felt a little more realistic to me. Ramona has always loved water, of any kind, ponds, pools, the ocean- she can’t get enough. Hence her nickname, Ramona Blue. She is devastated that her maybe girlfriend, Grace, is going back home after summer vacation ends. Ramona is starting to feel stuck in her small town life in Eulogy, Mississippi but can’t leave her pregnant sister or her aging father behind. She has always been the one to pick up the pieces when her sisters life falls apart, and she knows that she has to be there to help her with the baby. Ramona’s year takes a turn for the better when her childhood friend Freddie moves back to Eulogy with his grandma. Things turn complicated when Freddie starts to develop feelings for her – can she keep their friendship alive without stringing Freddie along? Will her sister ever learn to take care of herself?
Julie Murphy really understands the trials and tribulations that teens experience. The characters and situations are realistic and she writes about difficult material with empathy and skill. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this author. I hope there are many more books from her!