There’s something about swimsuits that make you think you’ve got to earn the right to wear them. And that’s wrong. Really, the criteria is simple. Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.
I read a lot of Young Adult literature. I love it, and some of it is more well-written than adult books. I have never read one that is so body positive, with a character that not only has an amazing attitude but isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, as Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Murphy is now going to be an auto-buy author for me, and I ordered all of her books after reading this. Dumplin’ is what I want all YA books to be: funny, insightful, honest, and entertaining.
Willowdean Dickson (nicknamed Dumplin’ by her mother) is the daughter of a former beauty queen and pageant winner. She is also fat, outspoken, and proud. She’s happy with her body and her life (for the most part), and she goes through life with her best friend, Ellen. When a new boy named Bo starts working at the same place Willowdean works, she is immediately attracted to him. Surprising to her? He likes her back. For the first time, Will doesn’t feel so confident, and wonders why he would like her. To gain back her confidence and prove to herself (and everyone else . . . and her mom) that she is worthy of everything good in her life, she decides to enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Everyone is shocked that someone who is not a typical pageant contestant would even enter, but Will inspires a movement that changes the view of everyone in the town. And, more importantly, reasserts her faith in herself.
The plot in Dumplin’ is so good, but it’s the characters who I really love. Willowdean is so real. Her characters doesn’t feel forced at all. Everything she says and every action she takes feels like exactly the right thing for her character. All I really want to do is find the adult version of her and be friends with her. I love that she doesn’t shrink into the background and basically says, “screw you” to all the jerks in the novel by doing the least expected think of all: entering the pageant. She does it unapologetically and not as a joke or with the goal of making a huge deal about it: she does it for herself.
And we can just talk about body positivity for a minute or ten? In my experience, there are very few novels that portray actual overweight characters in a positive way. They are usually quiet or mean, and are always side characters. Here we have an overweight main character who is proud of herself, happy with herself, and doesn’t spend the majority of the novel lamenting her size. Yes, she’s real, and while she is comfortable and confident in her body, she’s also ashamed at times. Everyone can relate to that feeling, no matter what size they are. But she doesn’t let it get in the way and doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on it. This is all about confidence, and how much we can actually accomplish in our lives if we stop getting in our damn ways with negative thoughts. I am here. For. It.
If you love YA, or if you’re not sure you love YA, or if you have a middle grade to high schooler in your house, please get Dumplin’ (and the sequel, Puddin’, which should be arriving at my house soon) and read it. Have your kids read it. It’s entertaining and fun, but it’s also an important commentary on how girls are “supposed” to see themselves in public, and how they should see themselves. How we all should see each other: as human beings capable of accomplishing anything we want to do. Size is not important here, just heart.
Love is an enchantress—devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.
Today happens to be the last day of Summer Solstice, which plays a huge role in this book!
I want to stand on a rooftop somewhere (but like, a nice rooftop with a garden, not a dirty one filled with A/C units) and yell my undying love for The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw. It’s not quite magical realism, and it’s not quite fantasy, but it’s a fantastic combination of the two, and I will be the first in line for Ernshaw’s next book.
Two hundred years ago, the three Swan sisters were sentenced to death by drowning for being witches. Ever since, the town of Sparrow has been cursed. Every summer during the Summer Solstice, Swan season begins. The sisters return from the sea, take over the bodies of three girls in the town, and lure boys to their deaths in the water. Penny Talbot has ignored Swan season and the boys who die every year. But when Bo Carter shows up, Penny tries to protect him from the danger he’s unaware surrounds the town. Penny must choose whether to save Bo or herself, and whether she can trust Bo with the deepest of secrets.
This book is immediately addicting. The storyline is mysterious, fast-paced, and very well written. I won’t compare anyone to the queen of magical realism, Alice Hoffman, but there are some very strong Practical Magic vibes here. (In a wonderful way, not in a copycat way at all.) The entire book is unique, and quite different from other witchy novels that I’ve read before in that it balances a fine line between mystery, magic, romance, and paranormal activity. I don’t know how Ernshaw did it, but she’s written a pretty perfect book.
If you want a great, witchy mystery, definitely add The Wicked Deep to your summer reading list. I was absolutely transported to the town of Sparrow, and it’s a fun, immersive book to disappear into on a summer afternoon. (And today is the last day of Swan season, so it might be the perfect day to start reading this book!)
For fans of: The Hazel Wood, Practical Magic[Top]
If you’re like me and can’t get enough of the royals (and yes, I’m setting my alarm super early on May 19th . . . but I’m also setting my DVR in case I sleep through it), you’ve been trying to read everything in that genre possible lately. Ever since The Royal We, I’ve been looking for a book that gives me the same feelings and is in a similar vein. I finally think I’ve found it in Stephanie Kate Strohm’s Prince in Disguise. It’s funny, charming, and just quirky enough to separate it from other YA romance novels.
Dylan is a Mississippi teen trying to live privately and quietly. Which is impossible to do when her big sister, Dusty, wins a reality show called Prince in Disguise and the entire family has to go to Scotland for the filming of the royal wedding. Dylan spends her days trying to hide from the cameras and keep some family secrets secret . . . and spend as much time as possible with Jamie, the cute groomsman who has an impressive knowledge of bookish quotes. If she’s not careful, the cameras will turn on Dylan and make her the center of attention.
This book is just what my heart and mind needed. A sweet YA romance with a little royalty thrown in and quirky, believable characters. While the plot is predictable, it’s predictable in a completely satisfying way, and the characters are so well written that I cared about what happened to all of them. This is such a fun book, and if you’re wanting to get in the mood for the royal wedding on May 19th, this book is the perfect way to do it!
Prince in Disguise has everything-great characters, a ridiculous reality show, impossible situations, and a cute romance. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of it (except maybe to see more of Florence, the royal mother in law, who is a force not to be trifled with), and I was a little sad when the book ended because I wanted the story to continue. I absolutely loved this cute book! It’s a YA romance that I think appeals to all ages.
Thank you to Kid Lit Exchange for the review copy of this book! All opinions are my own.
The truth is
our dreams could be
as far away as forever
or as close as lunchtime.
Tomorrow you could
wake up and read
this letter on a billboard.
Or you could wake up
and have forgotten
who wrote it.
I have not read a lot of poetry or books in verse in my life. To be honest, I can’t even name one. But now I can, and it’s Jason Reynolds’ For Every One. I read this short book, a poem that started as a speech Reynolds gave at the Kennedy Center to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, from cover to cover, not looking up once. It is that good, that moving, and that inspiring.
This is the most straightforward and honest poem (I’ll call it a poem, but it’s really a speech in verse) I’ve ever read, and I really think anyone can relate to it. It is about Reynolds’ own struggle with his dreams and how hard it can be to follow those dreams, but how important it is to keep going. He honestly states that he doesn’t hold the key to success, and isn’t quite sure how to make dreams come true. The most important thing is to have a dream and to keep going on the path towards that dream, no matter how beaten down you may become. Just having a dream is important, and sometimes holding on to that dream through life is the most difficult thing to do, and the most critical.
Whether you are about to graduate from high school or college or graduated 15 years ago, For Every One is an important book and a much-needed reminder that we should never stop dreaming. I recently bought a copy of this for a friend who is going through a hard time, and I really hope it helps her to remember that our dreams will never die as long as we keep holding tight to them. It was a good reminder for me, and inspired me to pick up a couple of dreams I thought were no longer possible. If you need some inspiration, know someone who needs a little push, or need an amazing bookish gift for a graduate, please consider this book. Reynolds gets it exactly right. And if, like me, you don’t usually read verse (and don’t usually enjoy it), I really think this will change your mind. It certainly changed mine.
Life is a gift. Don’t forget to live it.
We all feel isolated at times. Like no one really understands what we’re going through and that there’s no one to talk to. In Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, that isolation is explored in detail through a teenager with a devastating disease, her protective mom, and a nurse who just wants to see her patient happy. This YA novel is beautifully written, an interesting concept, and really nails that teen angst without getting TOO angsty. (I realize that I’m the last person on the planet to read this book, but I’m glad that I did! Movie is up next!)
Madeline has lived her life in a white room in a white house with her physician mother for almost her entire life. Her only contact is with her nurse, Carla, and whatever she can see outside her bedroom window. She was diagnosed with SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) as a young child, which basically means she’s allergic to everything. Her house is airtight, she can only eat certain foods, books are delivered brand new and plastic wrapped, she is homeschooled, and she can’t have any contact with anyone in the outside world. Enter Olly, her new next door neighbor, a boy who runs up walls, wears all black, and isn’t intimidated by Maddy’s condition. From the moment they see each other, a connection forms, and he will either save her life or be the downfall of it. Maddy has to decide whether she wants to play it safe and keep her health intact, or take a risk to be with the boy she loves.
This is a very solid YA novel, and I think anyone can relate to the feelings that Maddy has about wanting to take risks in order to live her life to the fullest. She loves her mom and Carla, and wants to do what she’s supposed to do, but she also wants to experience all the things that life has to offer. If you can’t fall in love and be with that person, are you really living?
The writing is wonderful, but I did find the plot a bit predictable, including the big twist. (And it is a great twist!) There were a few plot holes that bugged me as well, but overall I’m glad that I read it. I am extremely glad that Maddy is a diverse character (half Japanese, half African American) that teens everywhere can identify with. I really loved Maddy herself. She’s sweet and smart and strong and a thinker-what more could you want in a lead character?
All in all, Everything, Everything is a beautiful book, and Nicola Yoon is an extremely talented writer. If you enjoy reading about the human spirit and what people will do when placed in impossible situations, I think you’ll like this one. It’s a quick read, and will definitely make you think!