Book Review: Puddin’

“I spent so much of my teen years hunting for anything that made me feel less alone—and I still do that—so I think that will always be my ultimate goal,” said Murphy.

Photos by Art by Daniel Stolle and Design by Aurora Parlagreco

“I spent so much of my teen years hunting for anything that made me feel less alone—and I still do that—so I think that will always be my ultimate goal,” said Murphy.

I haven’t always had the most confidence or comfort in my body. And I’m not the type to stand out in a crowd, or proudly chase after my dreams. Self-doubt and fear had a death grip on my soul and thinking about my size in comparison to supermodel thin students walking down the hall certainly hasn’t helped. But a fictional character, Millie Michalchuck, did. Bestselling author Julie Murphy just introduced an uplifting, genuine girl squad whose protagonists broaden the reader’s perspective of the students beyond their cliques.

Writing from the perspective of our protagonists, Millie Michalchuck and Callie Reyes, Murphy tells a tale of body positivity, breaking and entering, love in the glow of movie projectors, and living by your own rules.

Having friends who’ll drive with you to Austin, Texas in the middle of night, find new nooks in a town you know by heart or learn about your experiences and love you more for it: Murphy’s writing reminded me what it’s like to have best friends.

Yes, I am a sucker for the trademark “Friendship is Magic,” troupe, but the relationships of larger than life Millie Mitchalchuck and queen bee Callie Reyes are far from conventional. Brought together by a Clover-City High School Shamrock revenge plot gone awry, Millie Michalchuck and Callie Reyes are forced to become more than acquaintances. In the midst of applying for broadcasting camp and practicing to take the dance team to nationals Millie and Callie find something unexpected: friendship.

Murphy writes characters who couldn’t be more different, but find each other all the same. Millie’s positive, persevering and kind personality clashes with Callie’s popular exterior and with a prank-turned-crime filling the awkward silence I wasn’t sure of their future. But over the course of the novel Callie and Millie grew together. Callie became aware of how her actions were affecting the people around her.

“Every time you say some rude, biting thing, it’s a choice you’re making. And you don’t have to make that choice,” said Mitchalchuck, a character in  Puddin’.

 I was shocked by drawing towards former queen bee Callie Reyes as the novel progressed. I loved that book explored the character behind the mean girl, venturing into the defense mechanisms and alienation that Callie was accustomed to on the dance team. Callie’s world was warped; sometimes she felt out of place within her household and  she was used to snappy remarks and prejudice because of constant competition. But Millie’s friendship opened up Callie to a world of possibilities, a world in which friends were loyal and wanted your success.

Moreover, Reyes encourages Millie to be confident, finding strength in herself as opposed to the world’s perception of her. 

This phenomenal novel explores friendships, romances, and moving towards ambitions but all of these topics don’t materialize out of thin air. Murphy takes readers on through a light-hearted rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, the realism and hopefulness is what kept me hooked from chapter to chapter. The diversity in Murphy’s book is unrivaled, the characters showcase a variety of different race and gender identities. By reading, I saw friendships and relationships where varying body types and backgrounds weren’t shamed or ignored, instead characters embraced these aspects in themselves and others. 

“Stories change hearts and then hearts change the world,”

— Malik (p311)

Puddin’ left me with a sensation of hope knowing that dreams can happen through action. And who you are shouldn’t be a hindrance to accomplishing your dreams, if you want something go for it! Taking a page from Millie Michalchuck, if someone tells you no, be the reason they say yes. Work for what you want and fight for what you love. Cherish your friendships and share your ambition with your family and friends. Race, weight, and gender identity is a fundamental part of who these vibrant characters are, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or hold prejudice against.

“If Dumplin’ was about coming to terms with your own body, Puddin’ is about demanding that the world do the same,” said Murphy in the acknowledgment section just before the covers close.

 I would highly recommend Puddin’ to anyone up for a whole gang of new friends. Reading was finding the slumber parties and interventions I never knew I needed. It was inspiring to see Millie challenging the prejudice rules imposed by society and being confident in herself. The body positivity is uplifting and Millie’s passion was so refreshing. This book inspires me to have it all, to chase dreams, be kind, and make lasting relationships along the way.