Pop Culture Advent Calendar, Day 12
Inspired by NPR, every day (gulp) from December 1st to 24th, I will be highlighting
a pop culture moment from this year that I loved. Today I talk about PUDDIN' and my love for Millie Michalchuk.
If DUMPLIN' is like a beautiful four course meal, PUDDIN' is the dessert that confirmed your lifelong thesis that yes, the dessert is the best part of the meal. PUDDIN' is the delightful companion novel to DUMPLIN', and it follows a few life changing months in Millie Michalchuk’s life, as she strives to keep her pageant friends, get into journalism camp instead of going to fat camp again (which she is so over), deals with new love and has a burgeoning friendship with the other main character of this book, Callie Reyes. Callie is popular and preppy, and she thinks she will have nothing in common with Millie, but as they are forced to work together, their connection turns into a tender friendship.
Millie is undoubtedly the best character I have read this year. I didn't so much as read about her than she told me about her life, that's how strong and distinct her narrative voice was. I think it can often be a challenge to write genuinely sweet and kind characters without making them a faceless self insert, but Millie feels so much like a living breathing technicolour human, and she's a cinnamon roll at the same time.
The book did a great job of showcasing what it's like trying to gently wriggle yourself from under the thumb of well meaning but over protective parents. It also perfectly displays how, if you consistently do what your parents want your whole life, it presents a unique and painful conflict when one tries to pave their own path. Millie wants to go to journalism camp instead of fat camp again, and detangling herself from her mother's belief in the Oprah brand of weight loss 'be your best self' 'this is the year' is touching to read.
I also found Callie a compelling character. She is popular and pretty, but Julie Murphy does a good job of writing about how this doesn't preclude her from feeling almost constantly out of place, in her family and amongst her friends, or like she has more to prove. It's those feelings that make her prickly, make her barbed. She out of all the characters goes through the most development. Her friendship with Millie was lovely to read. It was also cool to see what the characters from Dumplin' were up to. I was always going to love a book in the Dumplinverse, but PUDDIN' exceeded even those expectations!