Welcome back to Clover City High School! (The setting of two of my favorite YA books, Dumplin’ and Puddin’.) Clover City is a small Texas town, steeped in Southern Tradition. You know… sassy old ladies who love to gossip, football worship, sweet tea, and pageant queens. It sounds idyllic, but also a little scary for kids that don’t quite fit in.
The latest story, Pumpkin, focuses on Waylon Brewer, a confident and queer high school senior, who definitely stands out in a crowd. Waylon is just treading water until graduation, when he can leave town and spread his wings, accompanied by his twin sister, Clementine. He’s not quite sure where he’s going yet, but his biggest dream is to someday let his true self shine and become a drag queen.
One night while feeling a bit brave, Waylon tries making up his face and creating an audition tape for a drag contest. His sister proudly leaks it to a few friends, because she supports him… but that is definitely NOT what he wants. As the video circulates the school, some students decide to jokingly nominate Waylon as Prom Queen. He has the choice to slink away in embarrassment, or embrace it and live his last months of school to the fullest.
Though Waylon has always struggled to fit in completely, I love that he has a kind and supportive family and network of friends. His personal evolution throughout the book is sweet and has readers cheering for him till the very end.
On a personal note, I love that the book includes stories centered in the choir room. The teacher and students in the class create a safe and supportive environment for all. Though it may seem insignificant to the average reader, the significance of this class and the transformational power of song was not lost on me. As a music educator myself, I hope that my room is a soft place for all of my students to land.
I am a huge fan of the Dumplin’ series author, Julie Murphy. Murphy masterfully weaves tales of fierce, empowered fatties that I would love to have as my very best friends. Her stories are uplifting, encouraging, and help shout the narrative that all bodies are good bodies. After I donate the book to our school library, I hope the students enjoy Pumpkin as much as I did!