Sunday, November 29, 2015

DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy

I really, really enjoyed this one.  Dumplin' by Julie Murphy is definitely my kind of book.  It hooked me with a catchy summary, kept me interested with a fun plot and quirky characters, and sealed the deal with a happy ending--that okay yeah, might've been a little too happy, but I couldn't have cared less.  I wanted the happy and Murphy delivered.

Here's the summary that drew me in:

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.

I mean, come on!  If I didn't already love pageants (which I totally do), if I didn't want to read about a "self-proclaimed fat girl" (again, I do), I'd still buy because of the mention of Private School Bo.

And trust me, it was worth it.

Private School Bo was everything I hoped he'd be.  *Sigh*  He was hot-sexy-cool because he knew what he wanted, and that was Will.  He was also sort of Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life, what with all the secret stolen kisses--BUT unlike Jordan, Bo wanted to publicly claim Will as his girlfriend. It was her hang-ups that kept them apart for most of the story.

Murphy handled her main character's insecurities deftly, and as a reader, I felt for Will.  Her contrasting feelings of wanting Bo but feeling awful about her body (and therefore, herself) whenever he would touch her were heart-wrenching and believable.  This actually reminded me of a bit of Rae and Finn from MMFD tv series--which I LOVE <3.  So yes, this was a delicate issue to tackle, and I think Murphy did a great job.
Other things I enjoyed were the pageant and Will's little band of misfits, as well as the drag queens who taught the girls to strut their stuff.  I didn't appreciate how Will treated Mitch (love interest #2) in the book.  He was a kind, decent guy, and he really liked her.  But Mitch never did stand up to Patrick, his loudmouth jerk of a best friend, so yeah, he wasn't perfect either.  Also didn't love some of the thoughts that Will had about other people (namely Millie, genuinely the nicest, best person in the book).

However, overall, the book was in the tradition of some of my favorite things.  I wouldn't put it in the same category as MMFD, but I really liked this read.  Dumplin' is a contemporary YA with heart, laughter, tears, and kissy moments in equal measure.  What's not to like? :)

Happy reading,

Ninja Girl

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Best friends.

Summer romance.

Music that means something.

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord is a YA contemporary that features all of these things--plus a very cute nice-guy/boy-next-door love interest named Matt Finch who is sure to make you swoon.

The story features two 17-year-old girls who couldn't be more opposite (on the outside).  Lilah Montgomery, "Dee" to her friends, is a country music starlet on the rise.  She's the good girl who never puts a toe out of line, perfection personified from her long golden locks and persistent smile to her sweet southern lyrics.

Reagan O'Neill, on the other hand, is anything but perfect.  She's a recovering bad girl who loves wearing high heels and tight clothes.  Her quick temper and wild streak has been known to get her into trouble.  That's why she's sworn off guys for the summer.  This tour is going to be just her and Dee, best friends, having the time of their lives.  No boys allowed.

Until Matt Finch joins the tour.

And shows Reagan that maybe, just maybe, nice boys are the way to go.

Okay, so what I liked best about the book was the friendship between Dee and Reagan.  It was very sweet and believable.  I loved how loyal they were to each other.  Though the story starts with their friendship fully formed, I totally bought the fact that they are best friends who look out for each other, know one another inside and out.

What I liked even more?  They never turned on each other.

In a lot of YA these days, I see so many "frenemies."   Girls who are just waiting for that moment when they can steal their BFF's boyfriend, stab her in the back, and steal her place in the social hierarchy.  This totally could've been one of these books.  But thankfully, it wasn't.

Dee and Reagan were true best friends, who laughed and cried together, argued but always had each others' back.  The love there was real, and I greatly enjoyed reading about girl BFFs who maintained and strengthened their bond throughout the story.

I'm not going to lie: I couldn't help but picture Dee as Taylor Swift.  She was very Swift-like, if you will, but I think that was intentional.  Matt Finch, the love interest, was sweet--but not too sweet.  Matt was flirty and sincere and kinda sexy and everything a book boyfriend should be.  Speaking of which, I also adored Jimmy, the cowboy Dee left behind <3.  If their story was front and center, I actually might've loved it even more.

The writing itself wasn't necessarily as snappy as I usually go for, but it had heart.  I especially liked the song lyrics that were incorporated.  Unlike many other stories, these lyrics read like real lyrics.  Definitely liked that little detail.

Overall, Open Road Summer was an enjoyable read with two girls at its heart who were true best friends.  A very nice read!

Happy Thanksgiving, and happy reading everyone,

Ninja Girl