In 2015 I read Dumplin’ and met many of the young ladies from Georgia that appear, once again, in this companion book, Puddin’. As the focus shifts from Willowdean, who wanted to show the pageant scene a thing or two about their standards, to Millie, who wants to do the same with broadcast journalism, and Callie with the school administration and her dance team, it’s time to check in with familiar (and new) characters while diving into adventures, tensions, and unfolding chapters in their lives.
Published: 8 May 2018
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre(s): Young Adult/Contemporary/Fiction
It is a companion novel to Dumplin’, which follows supporting characters from the first book in the months after Willowdean’s star turn in the Clover City pageant.
Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush.
Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.
Rep: Fat MC, Indian LI, Asexual SC, Lesbian sister, Lesbian SC
ableism, body shaming, bullying, fat shaming, sexism, violence
I loved most Millie’s multifaceted personality. She loved writing, which we saw right away from her determination to wake up at dawn to get those creative juices flowing (even though she admits that rising early is evil. lol). Then, we see that Millie’s crafting game is seriously on point. Her skills ranged from needlepoint to papercrafts and beyond.
I pull my cell phone out of my backpack, which has been emblazoned with all kinds of stitchwork, including flowers, clouds, stars, a few emojis I tried my hand at, and even a little fat mini me on the very bottom of the front pocket.
It was so cool to see all the different ways that she expressed herself, that she had an interest not only in journalism, the major thing that her story was about, but about these artistic endeavors as well.
At least one benefit to listening to the audiobook is this moment you won’t pick up on unless you’re listening to the audiobook. Prior to Millie finding out about Malik’s name & its pronunciation, she said/thought it one way (Maleak). Immediately afterward, internally & (presumably) externally she uses the correct pronunciation (Mah-lick). When it’s written, you can’t see that she changes how she says it but audibly? It’s immediately noticeable and I loved that the narrator did that (production? whoever made that decision, it was a good one).
Callie was a strong Slytherin of a character. She was a planner, loyal to a fault, pushed for what she wanted, all while admittedly making some ill advised/cringey decisions. She had plans laid out for the Clovers dance squad and was doing her best to make it the best squad possible. I liked seeing her with her family, whether it be her little sister or her dad and abuelita; these showcased her softer side, a time when she allowed herself to relax as opposed to the persona that she felt was required in the dance/outside world.
The blatant favoritism that Millie and Callie’s school showed to its sports teams was infuriating and familiar. Callie saw it because the Clovers Dance Team was critically underfunded. Millie saw it when her and Malik’s AP Psych class had to meet in a windowless temporary building with questionable safety standards because the school was funneling money into a new training facility for a mediocre football team. I grew up in a small farm town and my high school’s art and music programs were constantly under threat because of similar issues. If it wasn’t football (or soccer, tennis, on down the sports hierarchy at the time), then it didn’t seem to matter. (This part I more didn’t like because of the situation rather than it was poorly written.)
While Callie had a strength and perseverance that I admired, there was also an aspect to her that annoyed me. There was a nastiness that came out, even with her dance team, that was distasteful. When she was interacting with Millie and making snide comments mentally or when she was acting as though her actions in relation to the gym vandalism were no big deal, these all rubbed me the wrong way. She holds onto blaming Millie, to blaming others for her actions, being snide, and I found myself shaking my head way too much unto the end.
I also didn’t think there was as much spark as I seemed to remember there being in Dumplin’. This felt like a nice-ish catch-up on the characters from the previous book, but while I thought Puddin’ was a good book, there was a certain punch that kept it from being really great. The pacing was part of it, possibly how I felt about Callie as well, and considering she was 50% of the book (it being a dual p.o.v. book), that affected it.
Puddin’ took this frustratingly familiar case and had characters react to it with anger, frustration, anxiety, bravery: a gamut of emotions that highlighted their humanity and I loved it. The Clover girls worked their butts off, not only to be Clovers, but to make sure there were Clovers in the first place. Even after the events of the book and what it costs Callie, you can see how important the dance team was for her when she attends a school board meeting and lays this all out regarding the funding, the favoritism, and why the school needs to do better.
I received an e-arc copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.