Title: The Designated Ugly Fat Friend (The DUFF)
Author: Kody Keplinger
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Rating: 9.5/10 (A)
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 “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out 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.
There were so many layers in this book. It looks like a relatively short, regular contemporary YA novel, but it goes so much deeper than that. Duff explores friendship, dependence, divorce, alcoholism, abuse, trust, and both the good and the bad parts of being sexually active as a teenager. Yet there is no preaching, hardly any angst...A book that could have been dreary and depressing is punctuated by witty remarks and clever humor that turns a typical teen book into a fantastic reading experience. The plot was interesting and had many unique situations that propelled the novel forward. Secondary characters were well fleshed out and had really individual personalities. Keplinger created characters that defied typical high school stereotypes like the stupid jock, or bitchy cheerleader, so that no one was just a stock character.
I totally loved Bianca. Keplinger speaks with the voice of a real teenager when speaking through Bianca. I feel like pretty much anyone who ever was a teenage girl can relate to her. She has an amazing sense of sarcastic, snarky humor that is really hilarious and she truly has a way with words. She's one of those people who come up with come-backs on the spot...instead of people like me who only think of them like, three hours later. Sure she is confused, conflicted, and downright depressed sometimes, but what teenager isn't?? If I hadn't been lucky enough to find my escape within the pages of books, who knows, I might have found an escape similar to Bianca's...Of course, there was no one quite as gorgeous sounding as Wesley that went to my high school...but still...it could have happened! Maybe with that hot neighbor boy of mine... lol.One thing that did irritate me, was her continued fixation on the word Duff. I know, I know, it is the whole point of the book kind of...but she gets offended after Wesley has been calling her Duffy for months...to me, it almost seems like a pet name after a while, but all Bianca hears is how ugly she is, how worthless.
Even now, I still can't believe that I actually like Wesley. Well, I can...but I just fell so totally in love with him that it's hard to think that a self-confident, motivated woman like me could be so infatuated with such a pig-headed womanizer. Yet I like him. True he does change and evolve as the book goes on and I love the new and improved Wesley too, but I think one of the main things that drew me to asshat Wesley was his confidence. He is who he is and he refuses to apologize to anyone for it. They always say that confidence is key, and that definitely applies in this case. When he comes to Bianca's defense later in the book, I just about melted for love of this fantastic specimen of male awesomeness...He was so powerful, and caring, and just...awesome... I loved how he opened up after that and became willing to change his ways in order to be with Bianca...despite his calling her Duffy.
The issue of teenage sex in the book might be a bit controversial. I find it risky enough to include sex in YA literature at all, though personally I don't think it's that big of a deal. Teenagers are all experimenting with sex and things already, so why not have books that show the good and bad aspects of it as well as how it can affect people. I feel like reading about it is a way of being more informed and better prepared for the emotional toll becoming sexually active can have on young people. However, certain people, most notably parents, think that by exposing teens to sex, they are more likely to do it. Some might argue that The DUFF celebrates promiscuity and sleeping around with someone as a means of escape. However, I don't agree. It is true that Bianca does sleep with Wesley to escape from the pain in her life, but I think the over-all message is how damaged Bianca is. She feels guilty about sleeping with him, and about lying to her friends. I feel like the sex was just a tool and it shouldn't be demonized or anything like that. Teens have sex. Sometimes it's for the wrong reasons, or with the wrong person, but they do it just like adults, only with a lot more confusion and angst.
SO if you haven't read Duff...what the duff are you waiting for? It was fantastic. A unique and original story full of snark and fabulousness...I really enjoyed it's unique portrayal of teenage life and will definitely read anything else by Kody Keplinger
Alright, I'm off to start moving!