One of this year’s hot debuts is Dietland by Sarai Walker. Written for adults, the novel is related by the immensely likable Plum Kettle, an intelligent young woman who responds to “Dear Kitty” emails from adolescent girls in need of guidance. Beyond that, Plum hides. Weighing in at over 300 pounds, Plum attracts all the wrong kinds of attention, and it’s just unbearable. Her plan is gastric bypass surgery, after which she can reclaim her given name, Alicia, and wear all the cute clothes she’s been storing in her closet.
But Plum’s life goes completely off course when she meets a group of woman who battle society’s preoccupation with physical beauty. Plum alternately loves them and hates them, reactions, no doubt, shared by many readers. What seems to be a straightforward story about one overweight woman explodes into a high stakes action adventure featuring a terrorist group known as “Jennifer.” This book packs a lot, but perhaps most poignant are the “Dear Kitty” emails. Teen readers will come to love Plum through her thoughtful and funny responses.
In Julie Murphy’s new Book, Dumplin, Willowdean Dickson seems undaunted by her extra pounds. It could be the love and support of her best friend that keeps her centered, or it could be the absurdity of her mother’s preoccupation with the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Once a winner, Will’s mother has wrapped her entire life purpose around the organization of each year’s pageant. Will knows it’s ridiculous and pathetic and she usually just ignores the whole thing. But this year is different. This year, Will is entering.
Will is dismayed, however, when Millie Michalchuk, inspired by Will, decides to enter the contest as well. As Will privately observes, “I’m fat, but Mille’s the type of fat that requires elastic waist pants because they don’t make pants with buttons and zippers in her size.” But Millie is inspired by Will’s confidence. And she brings some other non-typical pageant contestants with her. In it’s way, the book takes a turn as revolutionary as “Jennifer’s” terrorism.
Crossovers is a new column that links adult books with teen appeal to teen books. Readers are encouraged to add any related crossovers in the comments below!
—Diane Colson, currently reading Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn