Of course my bracket came down to 2 of my favorite books of 2015! I am a huge fan of the sass of Willowdean in Dumplin’ and well, I am a super fan of all things Simon (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda).
Body image and coming out are two hot topics with many teens and so we see this topic coming up more frequently in YA Lit. I think both of these books made it this far in the tournament because they took real issues and moments in the lives of teens and made them feel relatable.
Body image in YA when it’s done right is a great thing. I loved that Willowdean embodied the strength and confidence that you see in many big ladies but is something that doesn’t get shown a lot. While I loved Willowdean’s confidence, I also loved that her skinny friend had to tell her that body image issues aren’t exclusive to those who are overweight. The characters felt real and it felt so good to read a story that didn’t end with a fat girl finding redemption by losing weight.
While I can’t relate to Simon the way I can relate to Willowdean, his story is also felt really real to me. Well first off, Simon has real, normal parents. They are embarrassing in the way parents are when you are a teen, they sometimes say the wrong things as parents do, and they love him the way parents are supposed to love their kids. His friends are different and have normal teen drama and are still awesome most of the time. And social media causes extreme havoc on his life, as we witness in our teen spaces every day.
In the end, it’s hard to pick a favorite but Dumplin’ gets my pick this round. I loved the characters in both books but in the end, Willowdean’s sass is hard to forget.
WINNER: DUMPLIN’ BY JULIE MURPHY
Reviewed by Denise Hudec, Skokie Public Library