By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Funny, charming prom tale brims with identity positivity.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Coming-of-age story meant to entertain.
Don't wait for your moment to shine; the only moment any of us has is now, so take a risk and go for what will make you happy whenever you can. Your body contains you, and that's what makes it good, no matter what size it is or what it looks like. The differences that seem to divide high-school students are precisely the things that unite them. It's OK to be vulnerable and sincere sometimes, instead of hiding behind jokes. Be open about your feelings even at the risk that others won't understand, or worse.
Positive Role Models
Waylon is a good role model for openly identifying as gay since he was in middle school, and for accepting his body as it is (6'3", over 300 lbs., bright red hair). But he feels like he can't be his best, truest self in his small hometown. He tries to keep his head down, keep a low profile, and just survive by blending in until high school is over and he can move to the big city. Eventually he learns that he's missed out on a lot by trying to stay hidden, and that the people he was trying to blend in with aren't worth trying to imitate. Lots of positive LGBTQA+ role models among Waylon's friends, family, and teachers. Most friends are White but one identifies as Afro Dominican. Most teachers and adults he interacts with at school are positive Black representations.
Violence & Scariness
A bully gets punched in the face; blood is mentioned and he says his nose is broken.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few instances of mostly same-sex making out mentioning kissing, undressing, being "handsy," defining "bases," parting legs with a thigh, kissing with tongue, having a "semi," and "pitching a tent." Sheets are checked for "morning embarrassment." A joke about teens grinding and getting pregnant.
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"S--t," "s--thole," "d--k," "d--kishness," "ass," "lesbo," "homo," "bitch," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
Spotify Premium mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teen house party features beer pong, excess drinking with dangerous stunts, and mentions passing a joint.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Pumpkin is the third and final visit to the town of Clover City, Texas, by popular YA author Julie Murphy. Some characters overlap with Dumplin' and Puddin', but each book stands alone and doesn't need to be read in a certain order. Sexy stuff is mainly same-sex romances with making out described briefly but including details like tongue, taking shirts off, parting legs with a thigh, being "handsy," and "pitching a tent." Strong language includes "s--t," "d--k," "pricks," "lesbo," and "homo." A bully gets punched in the nose and blood is mentioned. Teens drink to excess at a party and behave recklessly; there's a safe resolution and no consequences. Passing a joint at the party is mentioned. Lots of body-positive and queer-positive role models, as well as teachers and authority figures of color who are understanding, positive models too.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
PUMPKIN brings us back to the small West Texas town of Clover City, where we meet high-school senior Waylon Brewer. Waylon's a stand-out in several ways: He's tall (6'3"), fat (over 300 lbs.), a ginger, a twin, and openly gay. But all Waylon wants out of senior year is to keep a low profile, blend in, and make it through until he can move to Austin with his twin sister Clementine and really start living his life. Until he snoops on his sister's computer and finds out that Clem's plans for after high school do not include moving to Austin. While he's still reeling from this news and from recently being dumped, he learns that he's been jokingly nominated for prom queen at the same time that Hannah, his sister's girlfriend, has been nominated for prom king. Thanks to Hannah's gumption, the two decide to "own it" and give everything they've got to winning the title. Prom-court activities throw Waylon into close contact with childhood friend Tucker, which ramps up the awkwardness since they had a falling out long ago. But as prom activities get more intense, Tucker's showing signs of interest in Waylon. Is this for real?
Is It Any Good?
Veteran author Julie Murphy brings us back to Clover City, Texas, with extra helpings of humor and charm. Fans of Dumplin' and Puddin' will be glad to check in with familiar characters, and both fans and newcomers will enjoy getting to know Waylon, his friends, and family in Pumpkin. Waylon is a complex character full of contradictions, but his believable voice and dreams of something better after high school make him easy to relate to. He's surrounded by colorful characters who offer positive representations of a wide range of body types, skin colors, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
But the story isn't all just laughs and campiness. Waylon's journey toward being true to himself no matter what is also sprinkled with moments of real emotion and tackles serious issues like anti-gay bullying and body image with warmth and grace. To say nothing of the sigh-worthy romance that blossoms right under Waylon's nose. Strong language, descriptions of making out with some detail, and brief risky behavior make it best for teens and up.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about diversity in Pumpkin. Why is it important to have positive, diverse characters in books and other media? How does it feel to read about or see characters you identify with? What do you learn from those who are different from you?
Is Waylon a good role model? What are his character strengths and weaknesses?
Have you read any of the other books by Julie Murphy? If you have, which one's your favorite? If you haven't, would you like to now?
- Author: Julie Murphy
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: May 25, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 28, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Where to Read
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