Wow! Julie, you are a rock star to me. There's really no other way to put it. I can't even begin to describe all the emotions that I'm feeling right now, but I needed to put them into words.
By now, I've read your two books - Side Effects May Vary and Dumplin', and I've got to say that I'm in love with how you write. Your characters are realistic, flawed, and true. That's something that I love seeing when I read a YA book. It just makes the whole book feel whole, and you're nailing it.
But what I really need to say comes to me after reading Dumplin'. I just loved everything about your sophomore novel, Julie. Willowdean is everything I've wanted in a YA character and more.
I feel like it's a very rare thing to stumble upon a plus-size YA character, and to be honest, I don't know why. To me, this is a very important issue. As a plus-size young woman, I've always wanted to find similar characters. I read, and I think, "Hey, why aren't there more fat girls represented in literature?" And no... I don't mean the supporting characters that seem to find their way to pages. I mean characters like Willowdean. Fat, happy, insecure, protagonists. I think I would have been a lot better socially in high school if I was able to find a character that I could relate to.
But now, as an adult, and as a teacher, I'm glad things are changing. When I go into schools, especially my old high school, old memories come back. I think about how insecure I was, and I know that girls today are feeling like that. Heck, they are probably feeling worse because the standards set by magazines and Hollywood are just ridiculous. Yes, there are plus-size girls in middle schools and high schools. It only makes sense that authors start creating characters for these girls because they need them.
Plus-size teens need characters like Willowdean just like people of diverse ethnicity or sexuality need diverse characters. Everyone, no matter what he or she looks or like, should be able to go into a bookstore and find a character like them. It is my hope that one day, every culture in the world is represented in YA fiction. I know it's a lot to ask for, especially because there are so many different cultures out there, but it is much needed. It shouldn't be a "one size fits all" kind of thing in YA, and I'm so glad that things are changing. I'm so glad that you created Willowdean for the plus-size community.
After having read Dumplin', I feel a lot better about how certain issues will be handled in YA. Julie, you did a beautiful job, and I'm sure that many people will take what you've done and apply it to other books, other characters, other cultures. I'm sure there will soon be more recognized books about plus-size teens and maybe even adults.
So Julie, thank you for Will. Thank you for creating this fat badass who is confident and insecure at the same time. Thank you for making her make mistakes. Thank you for making her realize her mistakes. Thank you for showing the world that plus-size isn't bad. And thank you for giving me the confidence to show off my Dumplin' Pose. That picture of mine never would have happened if you didn't write this book.
Willowdean spoke to me. And I really do mean that. After finishing, I looked at how many page flags I added to the book to mark my favorite quotes. There were about thirty. That's a once-in-a-lifetime read for me, but someday, I hope it's just one of many great reads.
Julie, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for this book. Thank you for this character. But most of all, thank you for the little bounce that's been in my step lately. As Willowdean says, "I am a total badass. A fat badass."