📚 Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

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Dumplin’, Book 2

Goodreads⎮Reviewed May 2018

Narrator: Erin Mallon, Kyla Garcia
Length: 11 hours 9 minutes
Publisher: HarperAudio⎮2018

Synopsis: The irresistible companion to the number one New York Times best seller Dumplin’, soon to be a major motion picture starring Danielle Macdonald and Jennifer Aniston!

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a little girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream of being a newscaster – and to kiss the boy she’s crushing on.

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 surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing that they might have more in common than they ever imagined.

A story about unexpected friendship, romance, and Texas-size girl power, this is another winner from Julie Murphy.

4.5★ Audiobook⎮ I devoured Dumplin’ last year. Everything about it was perfection. Despite knowing that sequels often fail to live up to the standards of their predecessors, I couldn’t help but be excited for Puddin’. I snatched it up within days of its release.

Puddin’ follows to different characters from the Dumplin’ universe. Millie Michalchuk was a minor character in Dumplin’ and I honestly don’t think I registered her presence. If I had known that Puddin’ would turn the spotlight her way, I would have paid more attention to her in Dumplin’. Millie was likable enough, but she was certainly no Willowdean. She lacked Willowdean’s vivaciousness and flair. I think if this story hadn’t been split between two protagonists, Millie could have been better developed.

Callie, on the other hand, was better developed, but not as likable. I enjoyed her part of the story, but still preferred Millie’s. The parts of Callie’s story that I really appreciate were when she explored the impact of her Mexican heritage and other peoples responses to it. Both of these characters felt deserving of their own stories. Forcing them into the same book, felt like an abridgment of both sides.

But where are those stories connected was pure gold. Unlike Willowdean and Ellen’s friendship, Millie and Callie’s friendship gets off to a rocky start. The friendship arc was the most endearing angle, by far. It felt very realistic and organic, as did the other relationships in the story. I think Murphy could have gotten away with telling this entire tale from Callie’s POV. She was the more interesting (better developed) character and had much more growth to experience.

I really enjoyed Puddin’, but it has nothing on Dumplin’. Looking back at my review of Dumplin’, I see exactly why I enjoyed it so much more. Puddin’ lacked the southern sass of Dumplin’. I know that both books take place in the same town, but it doesn’t feel that way. I appreciate Puddin’ as a sequel to a book that I loved, but the flavor just wasn’t there. It felt like a sequel of convenience. You know, one that was created in response to the popularity of Dumplin’, rather than planned from the start. Oh, and it definitely needed more Dolly Parton! That may seem like a little thing, but it’s the little things that count the most when developing characters and story. Dolly Parton is a huge part of what made Willowdean so memorable.

When all said and done, I’m still complete trash for this series. Julie Murphy is out there telling stories that no one else is telling about characters no one else will touch. Dumplin’ and Puddin’ are heartwarming, relatable stories about friendship and body positivity that just make you feel good. They also make you look at people a little differently and reevaluate your own biases and daily interactions, which is always a good thing.

Narration review: The biggest disappointment for me had do with the narration of this audiobook. I know comparison kills and I’m probably being way too hard on Puddin’, but Eileen Stevens did such a stellar job narrating Dumplin’, that it’s almost unfair to Erin Mallon and Kyla Garcia to have to follow her. I love that they brought on two narrators for the two POVs, which was totally the right call. Erin Mallon (Millie) and Kyla Garcia (Callie) are each an excellent narrator in their own right. For any other book, I would have nothing to complain about.

However, it didn’t feel like they fully grasped the spirit of this series. A big reason why Puddin’ felt so disconnected from Dumplin’ was because of the narration. What was so great about Stevens was how much she added to the story, atmospherically. Garcia brought a little of that to Callie, with her pronunciation of Spanish terms, but Millie didn’t feel Texan at all. Actually, there weren’t a lot accents to be found in the entire story. If I didn’t know the story took place in Texas, I could have easily forgotten. Stevens certainly set the bar high, but I really can’t find a reason to recommend the audiobook version of Puddin’ over the physical book. You’ll be getting just about the same experience either way with this one. ♣︎

$ Available at Audible/Amazon, Scribd, and Audiobooks.com

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