Took a fully unintentional break for nearly
two three weeks and now I have no idea how this blog contraption works. To be fair, I never really did figure out how to blog properly so this sudden disorientation isn’t actually out of the norm for me.
Sometime last year, I finally got myself to read Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’. Suffice it to say, I laughed, cried, ugly cried, and made me rethink what it really means to love yourself. I mean, sure, it’s easy to say that everyone’s beautiful no matter their shape or size but to read about a teenager fighting to prove to everyone and to herself that she truly believes that she’s beautiful is hardly comparable.
After reading that kickass book, I knew I had to read the sequel, Puddin’, which was about two minor characters in the first book. Dumplin’ was an emotional rollercoaster that left me feeling warm and giddy. But did the second book do it better?
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.
Although I didn’t mean to, I ended up binge reading this book in a single Sunday afternoon. It was absolutely unputdownable. It had been some time since I had myself a mostly lighthearted read. Most of my book choices as of late have been on the emotionally heavy side of things and although I may have clutched my heart and gripped the pages tightly with this book, it was mostly because I couldn’t handle how cute and wholesome Millie was.
Puddin’ isn’t strictly a “sequel” to Dumplin‘ but it still shared the same spirit as the first book. Admittedly, before I found this book, I didn’t I really think much of Millie and Callie. I didn’t dislike either character but I was mostly invested in Willowdean’s story which Dumplin’ did extremely well.
I genuinely adored Millie and Callie’s budding friendship. Both characters were fundamentally different so it was fascinating to see them play off of each other. Millie, the sweet and meek girl who needs to assert herself and Callie, the severe and ferocious girl who needs to learn to be gentle and trusting – it’s the perfect combo. Seeing them learn to appreciate the other and then learn from the other’s strength warmed my heart. Seriously, there needs to be more friendship stories in YA – no, books in general.
I devoured the book in a span of a few hours but the real question is was it any better than the first book?
Dumplin’ vs puddin’
Dumplin’ was a story about Will reclaiming her self-confidence. Puddin‘ was about Millie and Callie finding the courage to be what they want to be. Unlike the other Sequel Sunday books I’ve reviewed, Puddin‘ is a bit unique since it’s not a continuation of Will’s story. It had essentially the same cast of characters but followed two different people so comparing the two books the same way I did with Crooked Kingdom and The Heart Forger isn’t going to work.
So! To make things easier, let’s take a look at the general elements both books had, compare and contrast, and, at the end, figure out which I personal prefer.
Dumplin‘ had one main character who we followed throughout the book :Will. We were in Will’s head the entire time so got to know her very intimately. The advantage of this was that it made the story easier to follow because we only had one main storyline. The disadvantage was that we only knew the other characters as Will saw and interpreted them. And Will herself wasn’t particularly close with any of the key characters so we didn’t really get to know them as well.
Puddin‘ had two main characters, both with their own POV chapters. This gave the book a different perspective, literally. Not only did we get to know the two lead characters, we also got to know the supporting cast as the leads’ saw them. Seeing as the two main characters were as different as night and day, the story generally felt like it had more depth. It was doubly fascinating to see Will outside of her own perspective.
On the other hand, because there are two main characters, both of which had their own story and character arc, I felt like each main character’s story wasn’t as fleshed out as it could be. There’d be times when the book would speed through essential scenes or drop some story beats entirely. Obviously, with two storylines to juggle, the book had to condense Millie and Callie’s individual stories while also developing their shared plot. It would have messed up the pacing of the story if we spent too long on one character’s perspective so I guess I understand. Still though… there were subplots that I was more interested in than others. Callie’s especially would have been so juicy but, alas.
Ultimately, while I love Willowdean, I have to admit that I enjoyed reading two main characters, especially since Millie and Callie were so engrossing to follow.
In the first book, Will and Bo’s romance was one of the major plot points of the story. Even though that was the case, I didn’t feel like the romance subplot suffocated Will’s main story, which was more on self-acceptance and bravery.
Puddin‘ had two romance subplots – one for both main characters – and, honestly, it kind of bothered me. With Millie, I get it because she’s a very romantic, very outgoing person who wants to take more risks with her life. With Callie… her romance subplot kind of felt forced. Early on in the book, Callie’s boyfriend breaks up with her which was an extremely devastating blow. I was mostly hoping that Callie wouldn’t get paired up with someone else because her character mostly revolved around learning how to be genuine friends with girls. I felt that Callie’s new love interest was unnecessary and could have been scrapped for more scenes with Callie’s former girl friends.
I’m not a fan of pairing up a character for the sake of it and that’s just what Callie’s romance subplot felt like so, in this aspect, Dumplin‘ has my vote.
Dumplin‘ had an electrifying premise and a heartwarming ending. Joining a beauty pageant is stressful enough as it is but when you don’t fit the conventional standards of beauty, it can be downright nerve wracking. The pageant was really the main focal point of the story. It gave Will and her friends a reason to be together and gave the story a cohesiveness that made it so satisfying finish.
Puddin, on the other hand, was different. We had Millie’s journalism camp storyline but it kind of didn’t feel as important as it eventually turned out to be. I honestly didn’t really think the climax was going to be about that camp. I didn’t even think it was going to be about Millie. Callie’s story arc had more drama and emotional stakes. Plus I’ll never be satisfied by the lack of justice on Callie’s part.
Overall, Puddin’s main story wasn’t as focused as Dumplin’s.
For the first time since I started this series, I’m going to have to pick the first book over the sequel. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Puddin‘ and would love to reread it again when I eventually make considerable progress on my TBR shelf but Dumplin‘ resonated with me more. The story was more poignant and structured, the ending was more satisfying, and Will’s character was more engaging.
Does it hold up?
Even though I preferred Dumplin‘ over Puddin‘, that doesn’t mean that the sequel didn’t hold up to the series. Puddin‘ may have been a quieter and less frilly book – focusing more on characters than story – but it was still as much of a gem as Dumplin‘.
If you loved Dumplin‘, you’ll most likely love Puddin‘ just as much.
This took me so much longer than I anticipated. I didn’t really think companion novels were going to be different to review from straight up sequels. I had a hard time figuring out how to do this thing because Dumplin‘ and Puddin‘ weren’t as connected as the previous books I reviewed for this series. Also… I lost track of time and got a bit lazy so finding the motivation to write was even harder than usual.
In any case, next month’s Sequel Sunday is going to be The Wicked King, the second book to Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy. I was obsessed with The Cruel Prince last year so I can’t wait for the sequel. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post my Sequel Sunday of it on the first Sunday of the month as I’ve made it a practice to.