This piece originally appeared on the YALSA Hub blog in 2018.
Are you ready to go big or go home with self-proclaimed fat girl, reluctant beauty queen, and all-around icon Willowdean Dixon of Dumplin’ fame? Have you read Julie Murphy’s delightful novel about Willowdean and its companions Puddin’ and Dear Sweetpea already? Have you seen the Netflix movie? Are eagerly waiting for Pumpkin? If the answer to any of those questions is “Yes!” then look no further for some read-a-likes to keep you busy while you wait for that next installment.
If You Want More Beauty Queens (Reluctant or Otherwise!):
- The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: Austin is almost as tired of waiting for someone else to pull her into the annual Christmas parade as she is of being the butt of Dean Ottmer’s jokes and Austin has a surefire way to fix both her problems: become a hood ornament/Sweetheart in the No-Jesus Christmas Parade.
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: What happens when a plane filled with 50 beauty queens crashes in the middle of nowhere? Definitely not anything you’d expect as the remaining contestants turn their beauty-pageant honed skills to surviving on a hostile island and unearthing a massive conspiracy. Then the sexy pirates show up!
- Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg: Lexi has a Great personality with a capital “G” making her the witty girl everyone likes. The only problem is Lexi is tired of being that girl. Turns out a change in appearance can do a lot to improve a girl’s social status. But family problems and new friends (and crushes) force Lexi to ask some tough questions about herself and do some things that even a Great personality won’t make easy.
- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: Prom season is always hectic in Campbell and competition is always fierce. Liz knows most people in Campbell don’t see her as prom queen material. The better question is if Liz is ready to step out of the ensemble and use her solo to convince them otherwise.
If You Want More Fat Positive Stories:
- To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin: Savannah is marking time until she graduates and starts college. It’s just another year before she’ll be in college like her sister, but that feels like an eternity as she tries to deal with her mom’s constant pressure to diet more and eat better not to mention figuring out the whole getting into college thing. Cute new guy George could be the perfect distraction. But only if both of them can learn how to focus on the now instead of worrying about what happens next.
- The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burgers in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding: Abby Ives is seventeen, gay, and totally obsessed with all things fashion–especially growing her plus-size style blog as a way to break into the fashion industry. Abby’s clear plans for her future get very complicated when she starts interning at a local boutique. Suddenly Abby is competing for a job with Jordi Perez–the girl she also starts dating–and traveling across LA helping lacrosse bro Jax find (and eat) the best burgers.
- Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson: When her best friend and two other students die under mysterious circumstances, Mila Flores does the obvious thing: resurrect the girls to get their help to find the killer.
If You Want A Fun Ensemble Cast:
- Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: Turns out it’s way easier to keep the beat in drumming than it is in real life. Leah thought she had the hang of both but with high school almost over, Leah is struggling to stay on track with her friends–especially when she still hasn’t figured out the right way to tell all of them that she’s bisexual and one friend in particular that she’d like to be a lot more than friends. (This one also counts is a great fat-positive book but how can I not include Leah and friends in a section about an ensemble cast?)
- The Truth Commission by Susan Juby: After years of being fodder (along with her parents) for her sister Kiera’s best-selling graphic novel series, The Diana Chronicles, Normandy Pale is ready to come into her own. She’d like to be known for her own strengths and accomplishments instead of constantly being compared to her hapless counterpart in the Chronicles. But it turns out it’s hard to stop being a muse. Especially when you never asked to be one.
- Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert: Suzette and her brother Lionel have been “Little” and “Lion” for years. Technically they’re step-siblings and their family gets a lot of strange looks sometimes since they’re all Jewish but Suzette and her mom are black while Lionel and his father are white. They’ve never let that change how close they are. That was before Lionel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Suzette was sent across the country to an East coast boarding school while he got treatment. Now it’s summer and Suzette is home in Los Angeles where she expects everything to be familiar and easy. Instead, Suzette soon realizes that it’s going to be harder to go back to being Little and Lion than she thought.
If You Want A Sweet Romance:
- The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo: Clara Shin is good at two things: getting into trouble and making people laugh. When her latest joke goes too far ending in a fight and a fire, even Clara’s usually laid-back father Adrian knows that things have gone too far. Clara’s plans for a laid-back summer and a vacation with her Instagram-famous influencer mom are cancelled. Instead Clara gets to look forward to working on her dad’s food truck, the KoBra, to pay back the school for fire damage. Worse, she’ll be working with her nemesis Rose.
- Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills: Claudia is certain that working with Iris on the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for extra credit is going to be torture. But somewhere between bombing her audition and shopping for materials to help with costume production, something funny happens. Suddenly instead of sticking to what she knows and keeping her head down, Claudia’s world is starting to get bigger. Soon Claudia realizes that appearances can be deceiving as she discovers a boy band obsession, the ineffable Gideon Pruitt, and perhaps most surprisingly of all an unexpected friendship with the last person she expects
- If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo: Amanda Hardy is new to Lambertville, Tennessee and nervous about starting at a new school for her senior year. She isn’t sure what to expect when she moves in with her father who she hasn’t seen in a few years. She isn’t sure if this town will be any kinder to her than the hometown she had to leave. Grant Everett sorely tests Amanda’s resolve. He is funny, kind, and no one Amanda ever thought she could be with. Getting closer to Grant makes Amanda feel safe and known. So much so that she wonders if it might be time to let Grant see all of her–including the secrets from her past.
If You Want More Feminist Heroines:
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: Xiomara Batista finds her voice and a way to finally be seen when she discovers her high school’s slam poetry
- Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu: Viv doesn’t know what to expect when she distributes the first issue of her zine, Moxie, in secret to her classmates. In the pages of her zine she calls out sexist jokes, harassment, and unfair dress codes and asks girls at the school to join her in protests that quickly gain momentum and help the Moxie movement take on a life of its own. As the stakes rise for what the zine and the Moxie girls are fighting for, Vivian has to decide how far she’s willing to go for what she believes.
- Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: In the midst of a difficult year Gabi finds solace in an unlikely place. Gabi always knew she liked writing and poetry. She just didn’t realize discovering the poetry within herself (and around her) would have the power to change everything.