Julie Murphy is one of the voices of this current generation. She is amazing! I loved Dumplin‘ and I loved Puddin’ the other two books in this trilogy. I also loved Ramona Blue. Julie Murphy gets high school. She understands the kids on the sidelines. (My reviews of her previous books are linked).
Like Dumplin’ and Puddin’ this book takes place in Clover City, Texas. Waylon and his twin sister Clementine (their parents, he says, “won the queer lottery”) are both gay. They go to high school with WIllowdean, Beau, Millie, Calie and the others from the previous books. Waylon is a self-proclaimed fat, gay guy who hides in the polo shirts and cargo shorts his Mom buys him. He’s spent his life trying to stay out of way of the jocks and cliques in his high school–his best friend, other than his twin sister, is the school’s nurse with her amazing collection of wigs. He adores his grandmother and loves to watch a drag queen show Fiercest of Them All. Now, a few weeks before high school graduation Waylon’s world is about to change in some amazingly good ways, but how can he ever suspect that when his sister shares a video he made of his own “just for fun” audition for Fiercest? And then there’s the Prom Court to deal with. Hold on, folks, this is a fun ride, bumpy, back roads ride–a Texas-sized back road, of course, taken at full speed in a pick-up truck named Beulah.
What I love about Julie Murphy’s books is that they are not only about the gay or queer kids–they about all of those for whom high school is not fabulous–though also not necessarily unendurable. The kids in her books are smart, capable, and may even have a great plan for their life. They may take a stand. They are believable. That’s the big thing. These are not characters written by people who have no contact with kids of today.
I absolutely adored Waylon. I totally understood wanting to be invisible in high school. I loved, too, that he was becoming a man–gaining confidence, leaving boyhood behind at his own pace. He was mature in the right ways–he had not, as he put it, “gone all the way” and it didn’t bug him. He appreciates the great parents he has, he adores his grandmother, and genuinely likes being with his family. As he puts together who he wants to be–really be–even at Clover City High School, he shows the confidence a loving family gives a child. He finds his self-respect and embraces it. We don’t all do that. He finds role models for who and what he wants to be and is respectful toward them.
All of this might sound overly precious, but I assure you Julie Murphy does not do “precious” unless it’s snarky or someone’s nickname. This book was totally today, fun, and respectful to all–even to a church. That was a great surprise. Kids need to know that “all X” cannot be said about any group. I applaud her for that, especially. I sat in my driveway listening to “more” each night when I got home. I couldn’t bear to turn Waylon and Clem and and their story off.
Today I have a massive book hangover. That, to me, is the hallmark of an excellent book. Special shout out to audio performer Chris Burris who totally rocked Waylon’s story.
My favorite quote
“Nothing says high school lesbians in love like wearing each others’ combat boots.”
Pumpkin by Julie Murphy
Julie Murphy’s new book, If the Shoe Fits (not a Dumplin’ book) comes out on August 3rd and is available now for pre-order.
Ooh, this sounds great – I had Dumplin’ on my radar and it’s good to know there’s a whole series!
They do not have to be read as a series. She is an excellent writer.
Wonderful review Lisa. I really need to read this trilogy. I have them on my TBR, but they got pushed down that mountain. Thanks for bringing them back to my attention.
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I hope you enjoy them if you get to them.
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I have not read anything by this author. Thanks for introducing her to me!
You may or may not enjoy her. She is VERY liberal but tells a good story that is very relevant to today’s kids.