This was one of those super popular YA novels – so much so that it was turned into a Netlix movie (starring Jennifer Aniston, no less!). While I loved the “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” adaptation, this one was not my favorite. It was fine; however while TATBILB followed the book and the characters’ evolutions pretty closely, this one didn’t develop the characters nearly as well. Why am I telling you this when this is supposed to be a book review? Well, it’s because I thought the book was positively adorable and the movie just didn’t do it justice.
Willowdean Dickson is fat. She owns it. Not in a way that makes anyone uncomfortable – but it’s just part of who she is, like her blonde hair or hometown, in a way that doesn’t define her. What does define her is the bond she has with best friend Ellen and her love of Dolly Parton. It’s so nice to see a character like this!
Willowdean also seems to be defined – for better or worse – by her mother. Rosie Dickson is a former Miss Teen Blue Bonnet and current director of the pageant. And in Clover City, that is a very big deal. Willowdean has never really cared about her mother’s passion…until her life starts going a little topsy turvy. She’s always had a thing for her prep school co-worker, Bo, and is shocked when it seems he has a thing for her too. But then he transfers to her school and the bubble she’s been living in seems to have burst. The only way for her to regain control is to enter the pageant. She surprises her classmates, her mom, and herself.
We find an unlikely hero in Willowdean, and it’s utterly heartwarming. It’s not the ownership of her weight that endeared me to her; it’s the way she approaches her friendships, how she works her way out of a little love triangle, and how she bands with some great tertiary characters.
3.75 out of 5 stars.