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Dumplin' Book Discussion and Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.


Willowdean is a plus-sized Texan teen who loves Dolly Parton and deeply misses her aunt who recently passed away. Her mother, a former local beauty pageant queen, is also the director for the event, and consumed by it. Will couldn’t possibly care less, her hands being full with her best friend Ellen’s love life, and stealing glances at the handsome cook she works with at Harpy’s burgers named Bo. But then she finds an entry form for the pageant in her aunt’s old room, shocking, because her aunt was plus-sized too, and didn’t seem interested in such things.

Then, Will’s car and source of freedom breaks down, and while her mother is dropping her off at school, she calls Willowdean her childhood nickname, Dumplin’, in front of the whole school, including its worst bully. Trying to navigate love, the gap her aunt left in her and her mother’s relationship, and the challenges of friendship as both girls grow into young women with different interests, Willowdean endures more losses, gains new friendships, meets drag queens, and even comes to terms with her own stubbornness and learns the definition of the word loyalty.

Dumplin' is about deep loss, first love, friendship, finding your compass and accepting yourself, no matter your shape or talents. It’s a perfect read for teens or those who remember those challenging years, especially the struggle of trying to chase that elusive “shadow of perfection.”

Perfect for fans of:

  • Young Adult fiction
  • Young Adult romantic comedies
  • teen fiction
  • teen romantic comedies
  • misfit teens
  • plus-sized teen struggles
  • friendship obstacles
  • teen romantic drama
  • Dolly Parton
  • Texas

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Willowdean’s mother’s single greatest accomplishment?
  2. Why couldn’t Willowdean picture herself in college or think about life after high school?
  3. What was the connection between Dolly Parton, Willowdean, her aunt Lucy, and Mrs. Dryver and her daughter Ellen? Why did they all love Dolly so much?
  4. Why did Will think she and Lucy were being pulled in different directions or had outgrown each other? What was the catalyst for their fight? What or who added fuel to the fire?
  5. What are some of the ways to react to bullies? What did you think of how Willowdean reacted to Patrick Thomas bullying her?
  6. How was it that Willowdean would go from not caring what anyone thought of her body, to hating it herself? Were there any triggers that made things swing one way or another?
  7. Being a guy in a town like Clover City, TX meant that people had certain expectations. What were some of those things expected of guys like Mitch? Did that explain his friendship with Patrick? How did societal expectations help him relate to Will’s claustrophobia, even at home?
  8. What were the rules for the Sadie Hawkins dance? How did Willowdean ask Mitch? Why didn’t she ask Bo?
  9. What kind of place did Willowdean, Hannah, Millie, and Amanda go to for a Dolly Parton impersonators night? How were they shocked, and how was it connected to Lucy? How did meeting people that night help them later with the pageant?
  10. Willowdean’s favorite song was “Jolene,” but what was it a reminder of for her?
  11. Why did Will hate Halloween, when El and Mitch loved it? What did Mitch do to try to change her mind?
  12. What did it say of Willowdean’s regard for Mitch that she wanted resented him for showing up at her job on Halloween night in a costume? Why did she want him to “stay on his side of the plate”?
  13. What was Will’s original talent for the pageant going to be? Who suggested it? What did she actually do instead, and why?
  14. Why didn’t Willowdean care about winning? Who did?

The Recipe

While debating the pros and cons of a certain aspect of Ellen and Tim’s relationship, El and Willowdean were snacking on candied pecans.

Bo’s favorite candy, and a gift he left in Willowdean’s work locker on several occasions, was cherry lollipops. She once called it “a cherry-flavored olive branch.”

When Willowdean was going through her gross, lazy week, she found and ate a bag of mini chocolate chips (from a few holidays ago).

To combine these three main ingredients, I created a recipe for a:

Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookie

(The white bag of candy pictured at the top of the article also represents the bag of toffee someone gave Will for her birthday).

Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies



  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup red candied (glace) cherries, quartered or roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies



  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes. Then add the vanilla and the egg. Drop the speed to low and add the flour and baking soda. Combine on medium-low until flour disappears, about 1-2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add in the chocolate chips, cherries, and pecans. Mix just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, up to 6 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop cookie dough onto paper using a small, overly full ice cream scoop (or a large one for bigger cookies), and space them about an inch and a half to two inches apart. I prefer to place them in a “V” shape and only put about 6 on a regular-sized baking sheet. Bake for about 11-13 minutes. Makes 1 1/2 dozen (about 20) cookies using a heaping small scoop.

Rate the Recipe

Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies


Other books by Julie Murphy include the sequel to this book: Puddin’, Side Effects May Vary, Ramona Blue, The Secret Language of Light, April May June, One Summer, The Record Keeper’s Duty, and more.

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Fat Girl on a Plane is another glimpse of the world through the eyes of a plus-sized teen trying to find her way in the world, the world of fashion, filled with humor, sarcasm, and inspiration to love ourselves. Another book about a plus-sized girl is Future Perfect by Jen Larsen.

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods is a humorous contemporary fiction about friendship and a woman in desperate need of finding joy in life again, and discovering her new identity in the face of tragedy, with the help of an eccentric friend with cancer who is determined to find things that restore their happiness while she still has time.

For more YA and teen romantic comedies, try Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars or Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, or Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

For books about teenage bullies and misfits, read Wonder by R. J. Palacio, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten, or Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina.

Notable Quotes

“The word fat makes people uncomfortable.”

“I sit down to eat and liberally spread salad dressing across my plate, because on the eighth day God created ranch dressing.”

“I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. I’ve thought too much about what people will say or what they’re gonna think. And sometimes it’s over silly things like going to the grocery store...But there have been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special. All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn’t good enough. But you don’t have to bother with that nonsense...You owe yourself the chance.”

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat Skinny. Short. Tall. It doesn’t matter.”

“I hate seeing fat girls on tv or in movies, because the only way the world seems to be okay with putting a fat person on camera is if they’re miserable with themselves or if they’re the jolly best friend. Well, I’m neither of those things.”

“...That’s when I decided that being good at something didn’t mean you had to do it. Just ‘cause something’s easy doesn’t make it right.”

“No matter who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.”

“Maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.”

“I think you gotta be who you want to be until you feel like you are whoever it is you’re trying to become. Sometimes half of doing something is pretending that you can.”

“Life is not a river and we’re not all headin’ in the same direction.”

“Sometimes good things happen to you at the absolute worst time.”

“I guess things are less scary if you know what to call them.”

“You don’t deserve to win anything or be in any pageant until you make the effort and do the work.Maybe fat girls or girls with limps... don’t usually win beauty pageants… But the only way to change that is to be present.”

© 2019 Amanda Lorenzo


Pam Lorenzo on January 07, 2019:

Great book and excellent discussion questions.

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