My absolute favorite thing about Julie Murphy's Dumplin' was its positive-body message: I wish there had been a book like this to read when I was in high school.
Willowdean Dickson ("Dumplin'" to her Mama) is a plus-size teenager with a big heart, who's generally accepting of her body. (But not always, which I liked, because what teen girl always likes who she is?). At her fast-food job, she meets a private school named Bo and not surprisingly ends up crushing on him. But to her surprise, he seems to like her too.
But Willowdean isn't as secure in the relationship as she hopes to be, and in an effort to reclaim some of her confidence, she decides to enter the local beauty pageant (which, not so incidentally, her mother runs) to prove that you don't have to look a certain way to like yourself or feel beautiful. And when several of her misfit friends join in, even Willowdean can't predict the outcome.
Willowdean had a fun voice, and I liked that her friends were all distinct individuals with different voices. Some reviewers have charged Willowdean with hypocrisy for not always thinking nice things about her friends, but I think that just added to her realism. She's not perfect, but she's trying.
The romance was a fun side-note to the story, but for me the heart of the story was in Willowdean's relationship with her friends. A fun, quick read.
As a side note: I got to meet Julie Murphy at a writing retreat a couple months ago and she's just as generous and fun as you'd expect from someone who writes a story like this.