It is a companion novel to Dumplin', which follows supporting characters from the first book in the months after Willowdean's star turn in the Clover City pageant.
Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.
tw: fatshaming & fatphobia (both challenged)
I am not sure if I have ever read a book that has had so many quotes highlighted than Puddin' now has. I related so much and so hard to so many moments in this book that I am so astonished at how seen I felt when I was reading. I've experienced this feeling in small doses but never like this. Puddin' was different.
There were so many parts of who I am mirrored back to me through Millie. Honestly there are so many aspects of me in Millie that I cried over and over again each time I felt a piece of me shown in this story through Millie. I've seen slivers of myself in books before, like in the Faith comics, in Mila from Undead Girl Gang, and even my high school self in Molly from Upside of Unrequited. But Millie was the first time I felt like an author had really understood me and my struggles as a fat woman. Now, there are plenty of character traits that Millie has that I don't have. I think we'd be really good friends but she is also way too good of a person for me to fully say I am exactly like Millie. She sees the absolute good in people, despite how they want you to see them. I can guarantee I would not have the patience of the kindness to deal with Callie the way Millie does. She opens her heart and arms out to Callie, someone who has made fun of Millie for many things, her weight being the easiest target. Although by the end of the story Callie learns a lot about being a better person and she definitely has amazing character development, I didn't fully love her by the end of the story. Once again, I am not like Millie, so I had issues forgiving Callie for the person she used to be. I appreciated that she was actively working on being a better person by the end of the story, but her selfish personality even by the end made it hard for me to fully be on board. I think Callie's best moments are when she is with her dad and abuela. The part in the story with her birthday was great and I really loved it.
I loved Millie's core group of friends, characters we've met already in the last book in this world, Dumplin'. Willowdean, who was the main character in Dumplin' was a character I was a bit unsure how I felt about her. I didn't fully love her but I didn't hate her. However, in Puddin' not only did I love Willow but I often agreed with her and laughed a lot at her moments. There's a chapter in particular where she is giving Millie advice at her house where I was an absolute sobbing mess and I loved it so much. I also really loved Millie's friendship with Amanda, and I love that we got to know more about Amanda and how she identifies as biromantic asexual. I love seeing more queer representation in books, especially someone like me who identifies as biromantic demisexual. Although we do not get as much of them, I really loved Hannah and Ellen too. I found Ellen's friendship with Willow to be pretty hilarious. Ellen is both Willowdean's translator (Willow isn't great with not being blunt or with being subtle) and her conscious. I related with Millie to my core when she was worried that she was the only one in the friend group who cared to make an effort for their friend group to work so when the girls do what is right by Millie by the end of the story I was a sobbing mess.
I loved Malik and Millie's relationship so much. Malik is one of the sweetest male characters I've ever read and I really enjoyed how sweet he was with Millie. There were aspects of their relationship that reminded me a lot of the beginning of my relationship with my fiancé. Like I have been saying, it was incredibly easy for me to put myself in Millie's shows because I felt a real connection to her experiences.
The plot of Puddin' is very character based but with this case of characters it was really easy to fly through the story. I was never bored and often I was so caught up that I wouldn't realize how much time had passed while reading. The relationship Millie has with her mom is something I really realted to with my personal relationship with my own mom. The discussion about diets and your fat body being the before photo along with the unrealistic and unhealthy idea of there being some thin woman waiting to be set free was something I completely related to. Millie's mom kept wanting Millie to lose weight because she thought it wasn't until then that Millie could live her best life. I love that Millie comes to the conclusion that she can live her best life now, in the body she has now. Again, I was sobbing throughout this entire book.
I cannot think of anything I disliked about this book. Like I said, I disliked Callie but that was a grievance with the person she was not the writing/book itself. I think Callie's character was handled really well and she was given a really great character arc. I just personally have issues with forgiving someone who acts the way Callie acted towards Millie at the beginning of the book but also the selfish nature she has throughout the story. I think Callie by the end of the book is definitely on the path of being a better person and I definitely love that. I just sometimes had issues with the selfishness and pride that seemed to be a bit harder to shake for Callie than her bigoted opinions about fat people.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. I think it's a fantastic companion novel to Dumplin' and although for a long while I've been saying that Ramona Blue is my favorite Julie Murphy book, I think Puddin' has got it beat. If you're in the mood for an incredibly heartwarming story about family, self love, romance, body positivity, forgiveness, second chances, and great girl friendships this is the book for you.