Hello friends, Vera here today! I’m really looking forward to sharing today’s post with you, which I wrote in a frenzy of wanting to scream about two of my recent reads, Puddin’ and Pumpkin by Julie Murpy. Given the fact that I adored Dumplin’ when I read it a couple of years ago, I decided to dedicate this post to all three of these novels and share the four main reasons why I love this series.
Note that the series also contains Dear Sweet Pea, a middle grade novel, but I don’t really have an interest in it as I don’t typically read MG novels.
The characters are well-crafted and realistically flawed.
I remember reading reviews about Dumplin’ and seeing that a lot of readers’ enjoyment of the book was affected by how much they disliked Willowdean, the main character. That’s a completely fair way to feel, but personally, I love how imperfect and flawed the protagonist is. Will can be petty and selfish and, for much of the novel, she doesn’t do the best job when it comes to being a good friend. To me, this read as incredibly realistic, especially as we are talking about a teenager that, to an extent, struggles with her insecurities. Of course, had Will’s mistakes been swept under the table I wouldn’t have liked her character, but thankfully, Julie Murphy did a fantastic job of making Will realize her issues and vow to work on them.
Similarly, Puddin’ and Pumpkin aren’t filled with perfect characters either. Callie in particular is a really incredible example of how an initially unlikable character can be humanized and can go through character development that leaves them as a lot more sympathetic person. She does and says a lot of questionable things, but by the end of Puddin’ she has started on a path that is slowly but surely leading her to become a person that is more aware of how her words and actions (or inactions) can hurt others.
The friendship in these books is A+.
The friendship in these books is what makes them so special in my heart. It’s in Dumplin’ where we first meet with this group of misfits who decide to enter a beauty pageant and who become friends through that experience. In Puddin’, it is Millie who tries her best to get the girls back together and to make their friendship work despite their differences. I loved the way these girls were there for each other and supported each other throughout the series, and how Waylon ended up being embraced by the group through Hannah.
The books have a strong focus on family and how to handle conflicts with them.
In each book, I really love the way Murphy handles the characters’ relationship with their families. I think my favorite example from the series is Millie and her mother, who have an incredibly complex relationship. They love each other fiercely, but nonetheless, Millie’s mom has done a lot of damage to Millie’s self-esteem by forcing her daughter into following the same diet-obsessed lifestyle that she herself is following. Even though Millie has grown to love herself and has a very thick skin when it comes to what people say about her, she struggles to tell her mom that she no longer wants to go to diet camp or follow her mom’s lifestyle. There’s a big focus on communication here and on following the path that you believe is the best for you, as opposed to what someone else – even someone that loves you – thinks is the best for you.
In Pumpkin, we follow Waylon who has always believed that him and his twin, Clementine, will follow the same path in life, at least as far as college is concerned. Waylon is shocked to find out that Clem might not feel the same way, which leads to a lot of arguments between the two of them. I really adored how this was handled, as it showed that both Waylon and Clem needed to find what they as individuals wanted to do with their lives, even if that could ultimately lead them into different directions.
The romance never takes the center stage, but it’s always well-done.
Finally, I wanted to highlight the romance, which adds a bit of cuteness to every single book in the series. I think it’s in Dumplin’ where the romance is the most prominent – and the most angsty, too – but I liked every couple in the series. Something I appreciated was that none of the romances felt repetitive – each couple had their unique journey towards getting together and handling the issues that cropped up in the beginning of their relationship.
Have you read any of these books? Do you want to? What are your favorite YA contemporaries? What about books with incredible friendship books?