This book seems to be a sequel to DUMPLIN’, which I did not read, but it stands well enough on its own.
It traces mainly the story of two girls, one who is in the In Crowd and seemingly has it all together, and the other a fat girl who is bullied some but who has a strong family behind her and people who love her. Their lives intertwine in the course of events, and the story is told in alternating chapters. The first, Callie, is thrown off the school’s highly-regarded dance team when a prank gets out of hand and she takes the blame for the whole team. Unfortunately the team, who said they would always have her back, promptly drops her in an attempt to salvage its reputation. Since her whole identity to date has BEEN the dance team, this leaves her in a difficult spot. The second girl, Millie, gets sent to a fat farm every summer but aspires instead to go to a broadcast journalism boot camp. Her mother, who struggles with weight herself, is determined to correct her daughter’s fatness so that she will not be at a disadvantage as she heads out into adult life. The book details the girls’ efforts to define who they are (without heavy-handed management from parents), how to establish meaningful relationships both platonic and romantic, and how to repair mistakes and blunders of various kinds. Adults, with all their own imperfections, are represented fairly.
The book is long, over 400 pages, but it is an easy read and the above issues are addressed, with both girls (and their friends and parents) showing growth along the way. It should be helpful to anybody struggling with similar issues (and aren’t we all?).
There is a lot of casual bad language, primarily of the hell-shit-damn variety, with a few F words thrown in. The point is made that Millie is not a cusser, though she does not sit in judgement of others about it. There are a few references to casual teenage sex, but they are not drawn-out or explicit. There are a couple of homosexual relationships between two sets of teenage girls that are treated matter-of-factly and positively.
Texans in particular will smile at the references to Diet Dr Pepper, King Ranch chicken casseroles, Austin “trying to be a big-big city in tiny-big-city pants,” Marfa, Austin traffic, the University of Texas, etc.