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Puddin' by Julie Murphy - Review

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it in an independent bookshop in Cockermouth when I was on holiday there last month. I have been meaning to read this for ages, but hadn't got round to buying it. It's one of those floppy American paperbacks which I find difficult to read, but I bought it anyway. 

What's it about? It's a companion to Dumplin', starring some of the same characters. In Dumplin', Willowdean makes friends with Millie, whose mum is really over-protective, and is bullied by Callie, a dancer on the high school dance team. This book focusses on these two girls, each chapter told by them alternately.

Millie is a fierce fat girl. She works at her uncle's gym and she is determined to go to journalism camp in the summer, instead of Daisy Ranch, the fat camp she's been to for the past nine years. Her mother is certain that this year Millie will lose the weight, and that's when she can do all the things she wants to do. However, Millie just believes that she can do whatever she wants in the body she currently inhabits. She is very crafty, and also just very lovely. She has a crush on Malik, a preppy boy who is the only Indian in the school, with whom she chats online every night. 

She is friends with Amanda, and through the pageant she made friends with Willowdean, Ellen, and Hannah. She's determined that the five of them should stay friends, so she suggests them each hosting sleepovers every weekend. She begins to break her mother's rules by sneaking out and not applying for fat camp.

Meanwhile, Callie is co-assistant captain on the Shamrocks dance team. She is a legacy member; her mother was on the team that won Nationals in 1992. The team is one of the only winning ones in school, but they don't get the budget that the boys' teams do. In recent years, the team has been sponsored by Millie's uncle's gym, but they've had to pull their sponsorship. The team is outraged, and decide to go vandalise the gym. Things get out of hand and the main window gets broken. Callie is the only one identifiable on video, and she ends up taking the fall for everyone, losing her place on the team permanently. She's grounded and has her phone taken away, and she now has to work at the gym alongside Millie to work off her debt.

Callie is a typical popular girl - thin, pretty, always ready with a smart remark that often ends up mean. She's Mexican - her dad is Mexican but she now lives with her white mum, stepdad, and younger sister, and feels like the odd one out. None of her teammates will talk
to her, and she's basically a pariah. Millie is nice to her and although to begin with Callie pushes her away, the two end up friends. 

I loved the Texan setting of this book, there's loads of cultural things that I didn't quite understand but liked anyway. I loved Millie, I was rooting for her the whole way and very much want to be her friend! I liked how, on a couple of occasions, she was talking to another character about what makes them stick out at school, and she acknowledges her privilege while also being sympathetic and talking about always sticking out as the fat girl. Both Millie's and Callie's mums are just off the scale, like Willowdean's mum in Dumplin'. I loved these mums, I thought they were both trying their best even if they did sometimes miss the mark.

Overall I feel like the book is about sisterhood and about sticking up for your girls. Callie in particular makes some really stupid decisions, but they felt very real and I really sympathised with her. I liked the growth she made, and Millie did too by learning to stand up for herself. I liked the romances too - they were really lovely. 

What age range is it for? 14+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? They're not main characters but yes. 

Are any main characters people of colour? As above, Callie is Mexican

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No. 

Is there any sex stuff? No, it's mentioned but not graphically 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so 

Is there any talk of death? No. 

Are there swear words? Yes - Millie never swears and it's hilarious, but Callie definitely does. 

What criticisms do I have? I would have liked more of Willowdean, Ellen, and Hannah, but I did really love the sleepovers we saw. I would have liked to see Callie trying to talk to her ex teammates, but it's not in as much depth as I would have wanted (maybe because of the dual narrative constraints). I also thought there were a couple of weird time slips, but overall, I'm criticising basically nothing.

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. Especially if you've read Dumplin'!

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I knew when I bought it that I really wanted to get to it. 

What do I think of the cover? I think it's lovely! It shows the two girls in their similarities and not their differences. 

What other books is it like? Dumplin', obviously. I'm trying to think of something else but I think I'm drawing a blank. 

How many stars? Eight out of ten. I very slightly preferred it to Dumplin'. 

Where is the book going now? Oh I'm definitely keeping it!

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