by Julie Murphy 

review | Katie Wisniewski

We all feel uncomfortable in our own skin from time to time—some more than others.  Willowdean Dickson or Will for short, and also nicknamed Dumplin’ by her mom, is no exception.  Especially difficult for her is the fact that she labels herself as the fat girl and her mom, a former beauty pageant winner, cannot seem to look past her bigger exterior.  Clover City, TX is a small West Texas town.  The town’s only claim to fame is football and the yearly Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—the same one her mom won and now runs.

Will and her best friend since first grade, Ellen, have been inseparable since they met and bonded over Dolly Parton.  Ellen’s mother and Will’s aunt, Lucy, were Dolly fanatics and that’s where it all began. Inspired by a secret dream Lucy had kept, Will enters the infamous town pageant after her aunt's passing.  

Far from the stereotypical pageant queen, she unknowingly inspires three other pageant “misfits” to join her.  

Although in the months leading up to the pageant, Will’s life seems to be coming apart at the seams.  Her friendship with Ellen comes to an abrupt halt as she feels she is being left behind.  So much so that she never gets to divulge the juicy details of a budding romance with Bo, the gorgeous basketball player she works with at Harpy’s.  A romance she feels she is unworthy of and is afraid to embark on due to what others will think and say.  As the pageant nears, she learns lessons in loyalty and self-confidence—all with the help of new and old friends—and that maybe she really deserves more than what she thought.