Dumplin by Julie Murphy

Summary:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

The Review:

This book was on my TBR for a long time, even before I heard about the Netflix movie, and seeing the trailer kinda made me want to read it more, and luckily my library had it.

With Willowdean or Dumplin, she deals with the fact that she is fat, and the daughter of a beauty queen. She deals with her normal life with school and friends, while also dealing with the constant bullying from classmates.

The beginning of the book does a good job at setting up her character arc, and seeing why she would join a beauty pageant even if she was seen as unconventional. With her entering the pageant she inspired other girls who weren’t seen as conventional beauty to also join, including Millie, another fat girl, and Hannah, a queer latina. I thought they were great characters and I loved Millie’s story arc.

What I like about the book is the theme of empowerment and the message about body positivity. It didn’t deal with the fact that Willowdean needed to lose weight or having her be happy after weight loss. It also took a lot of shots at diet culture, and how it made her miserable.

She also deals a lot with grief, especially with her aunt Lucy, who she was very close with, even closer than her mother. Willowdean made for a great main character because throughout the book I was constantly rooting for her at every turn.

I thought her relationship with her mother was pretty layered. Yes, her mother would try to get her to diet, and become more like her. As Willowdean enters the pageant the relationship starts to unravel a bit, but in the end, both of them kinda come to an understanding and I liked that.

There is also some romance. Firsts there is Bo, her co-worker at the diner and their relationship was really good, and you could see that he cared about her. While it does come across as a cliche romance I did enjoy seeing them together. Then there is Mitch, football player at her school and it also had the cliche romance in which he was almost embarrassed to be seen with her.

In the end, I loved reading Dumplin. It was a great book from start to finish. It was a great and empowering message with an amazing character in Willowdean to follow. I will definitely be watching this when it comes on Netflix.

Grade: 4.5/5

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Dear Rachel Maddow by: Addrienne Kisner

Summary:

Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?

The Review:

Trigger Warning: This book contains scenes dealing with abuse and homophobia. 

This is an author I saw at Boston Teen Author Festival, and while I didn’t get a chance to pick up her book there I decided to add to by TBR. This was a very quick read, which I sometimes enjoy especially with YA Contemporary.

I would describe this as a sort queer-girl version of Perks of Being a Wallflower, with a young girl dealing with everyday life, while sort of writing letters to Rachel Maddow, a reporter for MSNBC.

Brynn, is entering a new school year after the death of her old brother and a very bad break up from an ex-girlfriend, Sarah. She spends most of her time as a loner just trying to get through the year, and also dealing with her mother and her stepfather, Fart Weasel.

I like the concept that the book is told through her draft emails to Rachel Maddow, and I think it makes the book or her actions seem very therapeutic, as if she is writing to Rachel Maddow herself. Throughout the book she sends about a few actual emails to Rachel Maddow, sort of explainiunbg about her life. With the format of emails, it helped me feel for Brynn and form more of a connection with her.

The main plot of the book is dealing with a student receiving a seat on the selection committee of the new superintendent of schools, and while ex Sarah, and Adam, the school’s popular jock want to only open up the selection to honor students, Brynn wants to make sure everyone has a voice.

Throughout the book, she also tries to run for student body president against Adam, and she has to deal with a lot of negative campaigning and homophobia directed at her.

At home she deals a lot with her abusive stepfather, and neglectful mother and some of the abuse scenes could be triggering and effects her mentally.

She also starts to form a relationship with Micheala, a new girl at school who she begins to like, and rebound from Sarah. I though their relationship was very cute and it was nice to see some f/f relationships that didn’t end bad. I found myself rooting for her constantly.

She also has some great friends, such as Lacey, who helps tutors her for her classes and Justin, who tries to get Brynn back on the school paper and also help deal with an arson that Adam may have done at the War memorial.

I felt the ending was a bit rushed, and while it was satisfying, I would have liked to see it more fleshed out.

In the end, Dear Rachel Maddow, was a nice sweet read taking a journey with a young girl navigating through life with the help of Rachel Maddow. I though Brynn was a very compelling character to take this journey with

Grade 4/5

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertali

Summary:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

The Review:

When i first heard that Becky Albertali and Adam Silvera was writing a book together, I was very ecstatic. I am a fan of both of their writings and I wanted to see what they could come up with together. I also had the strage feeling that I “Will suffer and be happy about it” because I know both of their writings.

This book is a very much like a romantic comedy with two boys falling in love in New York City. It started with a chance encounter in which Arthur, while working in a post office meets Ben who is mailing stuff back to his ex-boyfriend, they strike up a little bit of a flirtation before going on their way. I even liked how some of their beginning moments was interrupted by a Flash Mob proposal.

Arthur is the sort of hopeless romantic type, and is trying to figure out who the “cute boy” from the Post office was and is trying to figure out everything about him. His character was mainly written by Albertali, with him coming from Georgia and just visiting New York for the summer. A lot of her knack for writing great characters comes with Arthur. I also kinda relate for his love of Broadway musicals and him referencing Hamilton every chance he gets.

Ben, who was written by Silvera, is a white passing Puerto Rican living in New York and meet Arthur while dealing with a recent break up from his boyfriend Hudson. Adam Silvera wrote his character as very relatable, and his best friend Dylan, was a riot. The fact that he is very white passing is brought up a lot throughout the book, along with the racism he had to face.

With both Ben and Arthur, they are both sort of opposites. Ben, is spending his summer in summer school and is just trying to get by in school, while Arthur is an Ivy League bound student. But I did love the connection they had with one another, and they both complimented each other in a sense. While their first date was almost a bust they did enjoy each other, and I loved reading about their courtship.

Since it is very much a romantic comedy, it did follow almost the same beats of the romantic, with a few cliche moments such as “the misunderstanding” and trying to win each other back. With both of Alberatali’s and Silvera’s writing both of these characters came alive with every page, with me humming “Only Us” from Dear Evan Hansen.

In the end, What if It’s Us, was a match made in heaven with two great YA authors. Both Silvera and Albertali crafted a great love story with two boys, falling in love that one summer. I enjoyed reading every page of it.

Grade: 4.7/5

WWW Wednesday 10/24/2018

Welcome to WWW Wednesday which is currently being hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. It’s really just a place to do little update on what all you’ve been reading lately. Anyone is welcome to join, just leave a link to your post in the comments and be sure to give the appropriate credit to Sam

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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Last year I read, All Rights Reserved and I really enjoyed reading it. It was about a world in which every word is copyrighted, so speaking will cost you. A young girl named Speth, decided not to speak and sparked a revolution. So far the sequel expands heavily on its world and its premise and I am enjoying it.

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This is a graphic novel that I always wanted to read. I am a fan of Brian K. Vaughan’s writing mainly Saga, and this is a post apocalyptic world in which all men are dead and there is only one.

What did you recently finish?

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After years of putting it off, I finally tasted the Mark Lawrence Kool-Aid, and loved it. I really enjoyed reading this book. It had everything I need in a dark high fantasy, with murder and stabby, stab. Sort of like if nuns were also killer assassins. I can’t to see where this story ends up. Thank you Meltotheany

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This is the second book I read by Holly Black. While I did enjoy the book, I did feel that the characters didn’t stick with me like they did in The Cruel Prince.

What do you think you’ll read next?

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The YA crossover event of the century. Ever since this book was announced, it was on my TBR. I recently saw them at Boston Book Festival, and they are awesome people. Now I just want to know if it’s a Silvera ending or an Albertali ending.

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This is another YA contemporary dealing with police brutality, but also issues involving mental health. I also meet the author at Boston Book Festival, and hearing him talk about the book, made me want to go and pick it up.

That is my WWW Wednesday. What books are you currently reading? What have you recently finished and what will you be reading next? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

One of Us is Lying by: Karen M. McManus

Summary:
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

The Review:

This is a book sort outside of what I usually read because I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, but I do like a good mystery book, and this book had it.

It started with five students in detention, all of whom look straight out of The Breakfast Club coming from all different walks of life, and while at first they seem like the cardboard cutouts of those characters as the book went on they started to become more fleshed out.

The “death” happens rather quickly with Simon, having an allergic reaction and dying, while it does start as an accident there is people who believe that he was poisoned. Since all of them were in the room, they all became suspects. As the book goes on, you begin to believe that all of them has a reason to kill Simon, mainly because he posts on a sort of Gossip-Girl type website spilling all of the students dirty laundry, and it revealed a lot of their deepest darkest secrets.

I liked that the book was told through all of their POVs, it really fleshed out a lot of their characters, and you begin to realize that they are more than just a Brain, a Jock, a Princess or a criminal.

I also liked how it talked a lot about the age of social media, and how the story became a national news scandal. It actually had some commentary about news media in general and how it affects those who are involved in the story.

Also with the mystery itself, it actually keeps you guessing with a whodunit, but it also evolves into a whydonit mystery, and a how. Because even with the reveal of the killer you still want to know, how and why.

In the end, I really enjoyed One of Us is Lying. It was a good YA mystery, that kept you guessing throughout the book. The characters were very fleshed out and you wanted to root for. It was takes a lot of good twist and turns.

Grade: 4/5

Tradition by Brendan Kiely (CW: Sexual Assualt)

Summary:

Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.

Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.

When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.

As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

The Review:

This book, I sort of picked up on a whim. I knew of Brendan Keily as the co-author of All American Boys that we wrote with Jason Reynolds, and I even talked to him while getting his autograph at Bookcon, and he told me about this book.

The book is mainly told within three parts, a sort of before, during and after, and the book starts pretty much at an event and then goes to how the events lead to that incident. It has two POVs, James and Jules.

James is a transfer student, or a fifth year senior starting at the school and getting a fresh start after what happened at his old school. He has been recruited to play Hockey for them and quickly makes friends with the jock characters. I like that he was already unconformable with a lot of jock characters, who are all basically misogynist.

Jules, is someone who has attended the Fullbrook Academy and is on her senior year, who is basically counting the days until graduation so she could leave that school. She is practially an outsider, with a few friends.

I like that with the two POVs, you got see their own perspectives about each other. I also like how both Jules and James have start of with more of a friendship between each other. and seeing them bond over common interests.

I like the setting of the prestigious prep school, that fosters itself around tradition and order. As someone who has attended an all boys prep school, I can almost vouch for how those boys act, especially towards the young girls.

With the assault itself, it comes right at the middle of the book, and I like that it happened, towards the middle. It really gave me a chance to really recover with the character herself. It actually covers a lot of the beats that deals with sexual assault recovery, and wondering if it was her fault and also the backlash she received from former friends.

With the character of James, his arc revolves around trying to do the right thing with what happened with Jules and to stand up to his misogynist Hockey teammates. I also liked that he was able to be an effective ally without  verging into “not all men” territory.

In regards to the topic of sexual assault, I think more of the book could have dived deeper into the issue. But it did give us, a glimpse into what happens in regards to rape culture especially one that happened at a prestigious prep school, where the school is more likely to protect its reputation than protect the victim. It touches upon how harmful rape culture could be. I also felt that the ending was a bit rushed and could have been a bit more fleshed out.

In the end, I really enjoyed Tradition. It does a good job at tackling a subject such as rape culture, especially at a prep school, through the eyes of two great characters. I think it is a very important read, especially in regards to the #metoo movement

Grade: 4/5

When Dimple met Rishi by: Sandhya Menon

Summary:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

The Review:

This was another book that was on my TBR, since last year, and from the sound of the premise, it seemed like a nice cute YA contemporary romance.

The book is told through two points of view, Dimple, a Stanford bound Indian girl who has enrolled in a summer program, and Rishi, someone is who MIT bound and also comes from an Indian background. It was told to Rishi that he is suppose to have an arranged marriage with Dimple through both of their families.

Their first “meeting” was a sort of meet cute fail, in which Rishi snuck up on Dimple, which leads to of course Dimple throwing an iced coffee in his face. But after that fateful meeting they do begin to get to know each other, through their summer program and is even teamed up for a project.

Both Dimple and Rishi, are also pretty fleshed out characters with their own dreams and goals. For Dimple, she is passionate about computers and wants to build an app, and for Rishi he has a passion for comic books and drawing. It was through their individual passions that they begin to fall in love with each other.

Dimple is also sort of not really into the family pressure of having an arranged marriage or even the pressure of finding a suitable husband. While it does seem like a cliche, I felt the story framed it a little better.

The book touched on a bit about their Indian heritages and also family pressure that both Dimple and Rishi face, and it really added to their character development, which made them more fleshed out.

Yes, the book is very much like a Rom Com, and it goes through the usual tropes of a Rom-Com, with two people who don’t really like each other begin to fall in love. I think that is where its weakness comes in. The relationship between both Dimple and Rishi is what I enjoyed most about the book, but then it had that sort of 2nd act break up, which I felt was kinda a dumb reason for.

In the end, I thought When Dimple met Rishi, was a nice cute story, which could almost make for a summer read. It had a nice romance, even though it did feel like a cliche both Dimple and Rishi was a couple you would love to root for.

Grade: 4/5