Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Balzer + Bray, 2015. 978-0-06-232718-5
Willowdean’s mother is a former beauty pageant winner, and the head of the pageant committee in their small Texas town. Most of Willowdean’s friends call her Will, but her mom calls her Dumplin’. Will has always been comfortable in her plus sized body, despite the fact that her mother is obsessed with fitting into her pageant gown every year and her beloved aunt Lucy died from complications of morbid obesity. Then she meets Bo, her co-worker at a fast food restaurant. Things heat up between them, but every time Bo touches her, Will feels fat and ugly. When she finds out Bo is transferring to her high school, Will slams on the brakes. How can she put Bo through the humiliation of being seen in public with a girl like her?
Since this is a YA novel, everything works out in the end, but of course Will makes some dumb mistakes along the way. She decides to enter the town beauty pageant and soon inspires a few other misfit girls to enter as well. She kind-of-sort-of starts dating a football player, has a huge fight with her best friend, and deals with her grief over the death of her aunt.
American society purports to celebrate individualism, but at the same time there is immense pressure to conform. Women, in particular, are chided if they do not fit the ideal physical form that is celebrated in the media … including beauty pageants. Willowdean and her friends buck the trend, proving that even if girls who deviate from the norm can’t win a beauty contest, they can still enter, and have a heck of a lot of fun while doing it.