Monday, 4 October 2010

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

The Duff
by Kody Keplinger

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

I’m not really sure how to review this one… the book wasn’t what I was expecting.

To make one thing clear first: I loved the book, I read it in one sitting and was hooked from the start.

But… well, everything I had heard about the book and the title and all that -- they kind of made the book seem like something that it wasn’t. The criticism I have is not about the book exactly, it's about the expectations I had based on what I heard and why it was different.

The Duff. The Designated Ugly Fat Friend: Makes it sound like it’s going to be some serious, gritty novel right? Addressing important issues about body image and stuff like that, right?

Well, while the whole “duff” theme was woven throughout the book, it still felt like I was just reading your typical chick lit romance book (which isn’t a bad thing, I mean, I’m a sucker for chick lit romance books). I don't know if the author intended for there to be a message in the book with the whole duff thing, but it seemed that way and people have been praising it for that.

Basically, the message would’ve had more of an impact if the main character wasn’t one of the pretty girls. And I get it, I get it that that is kind of the point, the whole “everyone feels like the duff sometimes” thing. But that message was lost on me, because it’s something I’m already completely aware of… and have been ever since I was a kid and I would see my beautiful friends worrying about how they looked and feeling insecure and hiding behind too much make-up, when they are gorgeous and didn’t need it at all.

But lets face it, while everyone may feel like the duff at some point in their lives, not all of them would be considered unattractive by anyone but themselves... not all of them actually are like the ugly duckling amongst their friends. They may be less attractive in comparison to their friends (which is a subjective judgement anyway), but they're not unattractive in general.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is beauty in everyone if you look hard enough and that personality can make up for a lot, but on a purely shallow level, there are girls who genuinely just aren't considered attractive by anyone/many people and those girls, well, while everyone has their feeling like the duff moments, those are the ones that live with feeling like that and actually being that every day. And I don't think Bianca was one of those girls.

If Bianca wasn’t pretty then her story wouldn’t be realistic. I mean, honestly, how realistic would it be that the most attractive guy in school who could--and does--sleep with any girl he wants, would want a girl he didn’t find attractive? It kind of ruined the whole duff aspect of the book, because how many girls who actually ARE the duff (and not just feeling like it) end up with this super hot popular guy changing his womanizing ways for them? That may be sweet but it’s not realistic (I'm not saying it's impossible, but we live in pretty shallow world where looks matter, even if they shouldn't matter as much as they do -- and there aren't many guys like Wesley who actually exist in the world).

This is a feel-good book, it was fun to read and it didn’t even bat a metaphorical eyelash at the issue of sex, which is a good thing (it makes it stand out from those books that preach abstinence or the ones that turn sex into a bigger deal than it realistically is for most teenagers).

Bianca annoyed me so much sometimes, because she had a tendency to be repetitive and frustratingly judgemental and often bitchy without justification but in the end I wasn’t too bothered by that because there are plenty of non-fictional people like that so it made her realistic -- but beyond that, I loved the book a lot and I thought Casey and Jessica were awesome and while Wesley was pretty much your typical fictional boy cliché, I adored him... like, really adored him (Dear Santa, can I have him for Christmas this year? Please? - Kthnxbai. - Alanna).

My issue is purely what I said above: that it was made to seem like something it wasn’t… or maybe it tried to be something but failed or it just didn't click with me personally on that level. Maybe it might’ve had more of an impact on me if the overall message it was trying to push wasn’t one I had already learned on my own years ago and if it wasn’t completely overshadowed by the romance of the book (which was about 90% of the reason I loved the book to be honest).

Overall, I really recommend it and would give it four stars out of five. I did think it was fantastic... really, the only reason that I'm mentioning the other stuff is in case anyone else is like me and they go into it expecting it to be something and then finding it's something else entirely (my expectations were the issue, not the book or Kody's writing).

Kody is a great author (and the fact she's only 18 makes it even more awesome somehow) and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.



  1. Fabulous review! I can completely see what you mean about Bianca not actually being a DUFF, it doesn't seem that it would work with Wesley being interested if she truly was ugly.

    I'm still interested to read this though, because you're right it's been hyped up a lot!

  2. Oh, it's definitely worth reading -- I still think the book was awesome, it's just for me, it turned out to be something completely different than other people made it out to be. =P



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