amiskwaciy Team (aka Chandra): One lonely vote for Dumplin’.
I generally liked both of these books! I didn’t fall in love with either! Matt de la Pena did great job in The Living at keeping me around for “just one more chapter” (and then one more… and then okay, just one more) with all those cliffhangers and exciting action. I also appreciate that he didn’t shy away from a George R.R. Martin-esque killing off of characters. But, okay, do we think that even the most love/lust-struck of teens would spend that much time in the midst of massive storms, tidal waves, shark attacks, starvation,fleeing from evil scientists with guns and flamethrowers, etc., etc., worrying about a hot girl? And does every senior-high geared YA novel need a love triangle?
Speaking of, Dumplin’. I started this one thinking I would HATE it. A book about a beauty pageant in small-town Texas? Nuh-uh. I’d rather read my car’s instruction manual. But this one surprised me. I found myself rooting for Willowdean and her accidental gang of misfits, and feeling invested in her fraught relationship with her mother. Oh, and I appreciated that solving her love-triangle dilemma was a bit messy, and that feelings had to be hurt. Too often authors & filmmakers seem to find a way to solve them where the protagonist escapes responsibility and blame. Anyway, perhaps because of the surprise factor, my vote (by the slimmest of margins) goes to Dumplin’. It looks like I’m in definitely in the minority this time, though, and I’m totally okay with that!
Westmin Team: The Living by default!
Wendy- I am voting for The Living-- reluctantly. Found that Dumplin’ didn't deliver. It takes a good writer to carve out a hero with an unattractive character flaw -- like Dexter-- and I think 'fat' is a character flaw that evokes very little empathy in our weight obsessed society. (Hey- it is new years and I have just started my yearly diet!) Don't think that Murphy does it well though I wish she had. Found myself unattracted to and uninterested in the main character.
Krystal-I eagerly began Dumplin' with the anticipation of connecting to a character on a ‘personal struggle’ basis as so many of us also deal with weight insecurities. The protagonist Willowdean seems to have so much promise in the beginning as an inspirational and strong character, but soon becomes petty, pig headed, and quite mean in her struggles for self identity. I believe students will want to read this book but soon be disappointed with the character flaws found in Willowdean’s behaviour. The story is slow to start, makes a few good connections for anyone familiar with Dolly Parton, but does not follow through with the character’s development that one hopes for.
Wendy- The Living on the other hand is just a better version of the Hardy boys' adventure. It is indeed action packed and leaves off with no apology in a cliffhanger, 'wait for the next book' chapter. I found it fun, easy to read and a book that young boys in Junior High would enjoy. Enough said.
Ellerslie Team: We are voting for The Living to move on.
Dumplin’ is the story of Willowdean Dickson, a self-proclaimed “fat girl”. She’s always been very comfortable with her size until she starts working at a local fast food restaurant and garners the attention of the ”hot jock”. Willowdean then starts to lose her self-confidence and doubts whether or not she deserves the attention of a good looking boy. In an attempt to regain some of her previous confidence she decides to enter the local beauty pageant which her mother, a former winner, is in charge of. Along the way she fights with her best friend, gets embroiled in a love triangle, and becomes friends with some fellow outcasts.
I wanted to like Willowdean and at the beginning I sort of did, but as the book went on she became insecure, petty, and at times downright annoying. I was expecting a sassy, confident, take no prisoners kind of attitude from her that she just never delivered. The pace of the book was slow and although there were some funny parts I just wasn’t interested in finding out what happens to her or the pageant.
The Living was a slow starter. I found myself growing annoyed with Carmen and hoped the story wasn’t going to be just another teen-angst-crush-on-the-unattainable-but-maybe-interested-in-me-hot-girl story. Thankfully, after the initial suicide and wallowing in Carmen-dom, the action picked up and from there, the interest picked up, too. This still wasn’t the best apocalyptic telling I’ve read, but by the end I found myself curious enough to look up the sequel.