Julie Murphy’s companion to 2017’s Dumplin’ (read it first to avoid spoilers) is as full of heart, hope and hilarity as its predecessor. With an incredibly diverse cast of new characters, two unlikely love interests and emotions that are bigger than the state of Texas, Puddin’ will have readers laughing, crying and rooting for these teens as they navigate the tough terrain that is high school and find the strength to persevere when life throws a curveball or two.
While beauty queen Willowdean Dickson is still in the mix, Murphy’s new novel focuses on life after the pageant for reader favorite Millie Michalchuk. Millie hangs with a group of unpopular misfits and is a regular attendee of fat camp, but she’s thrown into an unlikely friendship with popular girl Callie Reyes when a prank goes wrong. Callie is co-captain of the Shamrocks, Clover City High School’s dance team, and the girlfriend of the school’s ace football player. When Millie’s family-run gym gets into financial trouble and has to drop their sponsorship of the Shamrocks, putting the dance team’s chance at winning a national competition in jeopardy, Callie and her fellow dancers decide to take revenge into their own hands—by vandalizing the Michalchuk’s gym, with Callie as the only identifiable culprit. Millie’s Uncle Vernon, the owner of the gym, agrees to drop all charges if Callie will work at the gym for free. Millie and Callie are then forced to either be miserable together or make amends.
In chapters that alternate between Millie’s and Callie’s point of view, Murphy nails the teen voice with online and in-person conversations that are filled with snort-laugh-out-loud lines. The characters are faced with typical teenage dilemmas, from dating and sneaking around (nobody is perfect, even Millie) to facing realistic consequences for their actions.
Hysterical and perfect for teen readers looking to have their voices heard, Puddin’ encapsulates everything that a high-caliber YA novel should.