Start Reading From The First YA Novel About A Plus-Size Superhero

by Kerri Jarema
In 'Faith: Taking Flight,' author Julie Murphy writes the origin story of the plus-size superhero. Photo courtesy of HarperCollins Children's Books.

For Julie Murphy, author of Dumplin', centering fat girls in her stories never felt revolutionary. After all, fat girls and women have existed for as long as people have, and to give them a positive reflection in her books felt more like second nature to the author. But it's undeniable that her work has nevertheless sparked revolution. First, through the Netflix adaptation of Dumplin' which was one of the first films to positively portray a fat female main character — and now through her new YA novel, Faith: Taking Flight, which centers a fat superhero. Bustle has the cover reveal and an exclusive excerpt below.

Faith: Taking Flight, out in July 2020, follows Faith Herbert, who spends most of her time hanging out with her two best friends, volunteering at the local animal shelter, and obsessing over the long-running teen drama, The Grove. Oh, and dealing with the recent discovery that she can fly.

When the cast of The Grove relocates to her town for filming, she can't believe her luck. Nor can she believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her. But that's not enough to distract Faith from the fact that animals and people are vanishing from her town without a trace. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school. When her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gifts, risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.

Check out the radiant cover for Taking Flight below, and keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from the book, due to hit shelves in July 2020.

HarperCollins Children's Books

Excerpt: Faith: Taking Flight

Carley is waiting for me in her crate. "It’s a big day, missy! You want to go on the leash? Maybe make some googly eyes at potential adopters?" I reach down to put her leash on, but she plants herself on the floor of her crate, whining at me and making eyes at her sometimes crate neighbor and partner in crime, Bumble. "All right, all right. I’ll take you both out. Come on, Bumble."

In front of our tent, I walk back and forth. Bumble pulls me forward while Carley pulls me back. "Hi!" I call out to passersby. "Are you interested in fostering or maybe even giving a forever home to one of our rescue pups? They’re all spayed or neutered and completely vaccinated. For fosters, we cover the expense of food and medical bills."

A few people take cards and some even stop to give Carley and Bumble a head scratch or two before moving on to the row of games at the far side of the fairgrounds.

"No joy like the joy of fostering!" I call out cheerfully.

"Give me all the dogs!" says a haughty voice.

I turn around to find Matt in a Delgado & Sons Bakery T-shirt. I should’ve recognized his Cruella de Vil voice. "Hey, you! I thought your dad’s booth was short-staffed today."

"Raymond finally showed up, so Dad cut me loose for a few minutes to take a break."

Matt’s family runs the funnel-cake booth every year, and their funnel cake is more than deep-fried dough. It’s a religious experience.

I clip Bumble’s and Carley’s leashes to the dog-walking belt Dr. Bryner outfitted me with so I can give Matt a proper hug.

Matt meets me where I am and Ches expands my horizons.

Matthew Delgado and I are basically the exact same body type. The only differences are his brown skin thanks to his Puerto Rican roots and our, well, differing equipment. But to be totally honest, we’ve been known to share clothes from time to time, and it pains me to admit this, but he looks better in my skinny jeans than I do. I love Ches, but Matt and I exist on the same wavelength in a way that Ches and I don’t. We’re both pop culture nerds who aren’t afraid to love the things we love. Ches isn’t afraid either, but the things she loves are usually medieval fairy tales and feminist think pieces about Wiccan culture. It’s the perfect mix, though. Matt meets me where I am and Ches expands my horizons.

"But for real," says Matt, "I had to come over here and see if you really got Ches to wear that pastel T-shirt." He holds his hand above his brow to block the sun. "And holy shit. Will you look at that? Our own little witchy Easter egg," he says loud enough for her to hear.

Ches checks to see that Kit’s back is turned before she gives him the finger.

My body tugs to the left as Bumble pulls impatiently at his leash. "Hang on, buddy," I tell him. "Oh my God. We haven’t even talked about the season finale of The Grove."

Matt’s face screws up into a grimace. "I am not happy about how things played out. And are we just going to ignore the fact that Reese is supposed to be a Seer and would have totally known that Parker wasn’t actually dead?"

"Oh, whatever. You’re just pissed because your prediction—" Bumble tugs more violently, causing me to stumble. I grab the leash to pull him back. "Easy there." I turn back to Matt. "Like I was saying—"

But I don’t get to finish, because now sweet Bumble, the dog who spends all day waiting for belly rubs and treats and who wouldn’t hurt a butterfly, is pulling me with such strength that I have to run to keep up and we’re leaving poor Carley in the dust, practically dragging her behind.

"Bumble!" I shout. "Bumble! What the heck has gotten into you?"

The faster my feet move, the harder I have to concentrate on making sure they return back to the ground, like I could just shoot right up into the sky with all this building momentum. There’s an ache running all the way down to my toes, just begging me to push myself off the ground and soar. Since this summer, my whole body’s biology has changed entirely and my head is having a hard time catching up. It’s like I went through puberty for the second time, but this time instead of boobs, I gained the ability to fly and enough trauma to last me through college at least.

"Hey, girl!" someone calls.

"Now is not the time for pickup lines!" I shout back.

The path ahead of me clears and I can see the source of the voice, the one person refusing to budge. They’re either the nicest person ever or looking for a reason to get run over. “Hey, girl!” they call again, and this time I can hear that they are definitely talking to Bumble and not me.

“Incoming!” I shout as my body collides with theirs, sending us both flying onto the dirt ground.

Bumble finally, mercifully stops, taking a moment to lick my head before greeting our guest.

I sit up. “Bumble, what got into you?”

Something about them is so familiar, like I’m having déjà vu.

The person sits up as Bumble collapses into their lap. "Bees," they say before taking off their sunglasses and baseball hat. "She was being chased by bees."

The stranger who was kind enough to literally stop us in our tracks is small, but has a solid frame with tightly muscled arms and wears an effortlessly cool black T-shirt and slouchy jeans. Something about them is so familiar, like I’m having déjà vu.

I gasp. "Oh. My. God." This is way more impossible than déjà vu.

"I know," they say. "Poor thing."

"You—you’re Dakota Ash. The Dakota Ash." My chest is seizing. Is this a heart attack? Is this what it feels like?

Dakota stands, shaking the dust off her pants, and holds a hand out to help me up as the crowd around us begins to mill about again, the action mostly over.

I stare blankly at her hand for a moment too long before taking it.

She smiles as she puts her Ray-Bans on again and tugs her red baseball hat back over her short hair, which swoops all to one side, showing off her buzzed scalp on one side. She’s only a year older than me, and somehow, she’s cooler and more confident than I can imagine myself ever being, let alone by this time next year. "Maybe don’t say that name so loud."

"You’re Dakota Ash," I whisper.

She grins, somehow charmed by how big of a fool I am in this moment.

That is a question. Deep breath. Questions have answers. Deep breath.

But OH MY GOD DAKOTA ASH. THE DAKOTA ASH. STAR OF THE GROVE. I am silently screaming on the inside. I bite down on my lips to stop myself from saying anything I’ll regret. Matt is going to die. We both are. RIP us. We’ll be buried side by side. Our headstones will read: They died as they lived: consumed by fandom.

I say it again. "You’re Dakota Ash."

"I know," she says. "And who’s this sweet girl?"

I stand there in silence for a moment, begging my brain to compute. That is a question. Deep breath. Questions have answers. Deep breath. That is a question I can answer.

"I’m F-faith," I stutter. "Oh wait. No. This is Bumble. She is very sweet. I mean, I can be too. But mostly Bumble is the sweet one. The sweet girl."

Dakota holds her lips in a tight line, like she’s trying not to smile. She motions to my T-shirt. "And is she available for adoption?"

"She is! Bumble is looking for a lifelong companion who will take her on adventures with them like hiking and picnics. She’s playful, but the true way to her heart is through belly rubs and rawhide," I say, reciting Bumble’s online bio. "She’s in perfect health and only suffers from a—"

"Bee allergy," Dakota finishes. "I read about her online." She squats down and Bumble immediately rolls over, baring her belly.

I can’t believe I’m talking to Dakota Ash about pet adoptions. How wild is that? And that she’s here! In Glenwood! Wait. I have so many questions. "Dakota," I say. "Miss Ash?"

She pops back up. “Dakota. Please.”

I nod. “Dakota. I don’t mean to pry, and I promise not to, like, call the paparazzi or anything—not that we even have paparazzi in Glenwood—but what are you even doing here?.”

Dakota glances over her shoulder before taking a step closer to me. “Can you keep a secret?”

You can now pre-order Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy, out in July 2020.