Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Dumplin' Book Poster Image
Smart, funny, body-positive coming-of-age story.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows how lots of hard work and organization goes into putting on a beauty pageant. Dolly Parton's career, hit songs mentioned.

Positive Messages

You can be beautiful and fat at the same time. There will always be someone better, prettier, thinner; stop chasing perfection. Go after the things you want, don't wait for them to happen. Outsiders have to change society's view of them by being present in society; they can't expect the same things everyone else has unless they demand them. You don't have to earn the right to enjoy life in public places by being conventionally attractive; having a body gives you the right to, for example, be seen in a swimsuit. Good friendships are durable, but don't let pride or stubbornness get in the way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Willowdean, a high school junior, is a great model for learning to be comfortable in your own skin and that you and your body deserve love and respect. She's happy and confident despite society's constant attempts to marginalize fat people. She wants to be her own role model, and even though she has doubts and makes mistakes, she learns that she is fat and beautiful at the same time and that she shouldn't let anyone or anything cut her off from what she wants and needs to be happy. She learns what loyalty really means and to be unselfish for her friend's sake.


A bully is kneed in the groin; the perpetrator is suspended and grounded.


Kissing and light making out are described briefly. Teens discuss when it's right to have sex for the first time. Mentions of a type of song that "makes people rub their crotches together" and dry humping.


"S--t" and variations used frequently. Less frequently: "ass," "a--hole," "f--k" and variations, "boob," "d--k." "Whore" in reference to a Dolly Parton role. Bullies make oinking noises and push up the tips of their noses around fat people.


Diet Dr Pepper and Miller mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

High school teens go to a bar but aren't allowed any drinks by the owner. An adult drinks cocktails until his head slumps down. Mention of a past incident of getting drunk on wine coolers and a resulting hangover. Mom gives Willowdean champagne. Background characters with cigarettes mentioned once or twice.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dumplin' is a thought-provoking story of fat high school girl Willowdean's struggle -- not with her weight but with her ability to see herself as someone who's worthwhile and deserves happiness. The heroine is a great role model for self-empowerment, and there are lots of positive messages and lessons about not letting your appearance define who you are and what you do. There's some kissing and light making out, and teens talk about when it's right to have sex for the first time. Strong language includes frequent use of "s--t" and variations; other profanity is less frequent but includes "f--k," "a--hole," and "goddammit." There's one minor violent event with disciplinary consequences. Willowdean's mom gives her champagne once, and high school teens go to a bar, where one adult drinks to excess but the teens drink virgin cocktails.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBeclee101 November 1, 2018

Nice story about diversity, a fun read

This is a fun read for older teens. My issue for younger kids is there is much talk about sex and some pretty descriptive scenes surrounding sex and kissing.... Continue reading
Adult Written byDonut2018 December 10, 2018
Teen, 13 years old Written byThalia Grace March 16, 2021

There is absolutely no reason this book should be 14+

Like I said NO reason. So now I'm gonna go redo ALL my other reviews because don't you think we're being a bit overzealous with the "issues... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 1, 2019

Doesn't Hiding Anything

Dumplin' isn't just a book it's a story. Throughout the book you feel every single emotion that Dumplin' is experiencing. This book doesn... Continue reading

What's the story?

Willowdean Dickson, a high school junior, has always been fat and happy. But when she starts falling for her cute coworker and he starts falling for her, she suddenly starts to question everything she ever thought about herself and her relationship to her body. Just as she's trying to get her self-confidence back, she has a huge fight with her best friend about entering the local beauty pageant. As if that weren't enough, Willowdean's frosty relationship with her beauty-queen mother (who gave her the nickname DUMPLIN') takes a nosedive when she starts to invade her mother's pageant territory. But Willowdean feels she has just as much of a right to participate as anyone, even if she knows she won't win. Can she survive the pageant, get her best friend back, and get the guy? And will she ever be comfortable in her own skin again?

Is it any good?

Smart, funny, confident, beautiful, and -- oh, yeah -- fat Texas teen Willowdean is a breath of fresh air. Author Julie Murphy brings an authenticity and universality to her heroine’s voice as Willowdean searches to restore her self-confidence. Even teens who've never been overweight will relate to Willowdean's insecurities and learn how to get past their own. Issues about insecurity that anyone can understand, as well as many specific to body positivity, are honestly and forthrightly presented in many ways, from funny to poignant to infuriating and everything in between.

Colorful, believable characters round out small-town Clover City, Texas. Teens will enjoy rooting for Willowdean and her misfit friends as they claim their rightful places in society as people who deserve respect and happiness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about being fat. Do you think it's possible to be fat and beautiful? If not, why not?

  • If she could wave a magic wand and just be thin, do you think Willowdean would do it? Why, or why not? Is there anything about yourself you would magic away if you could? 

  • How important did you think a person's weight was before you read this book? Did reading this book change your thinking about weight?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate