The Duff by Kody Keplinger
The DUFF stands for the Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and Bianca has just realized that’s what she is.
Bianca is used to the attention her pretty friends receive, and often sits on the sidelines while they do typical teenager things, like dancing at the Nest, an underage bar most of the students frequent.
Wesley is the playboy flirt, who is not discriminatory in who he sleeps with; he likes the company, the attention, and the lack of commitment.
When things start going rough in Bianca’s life, she turns to Wesley, a boy she hates, to help her forget it all.
The Duff is a young adult contemporary novel that rings true to the age. When reading it, I felt like I was back in high school again, and could easily relate to both Bianca and her friends. The dialogue, friendships, and situations were realistic and relatable, which I really appreciated.
I also enjoyed the characterization, and how the story didn’t focus on the super pretty character, but the more average one. Bianca is also not your typical YA virgin, and sex is not seen as something that should be held on a pedestal, but the author investigates the different reasons, types, and purposes of sex. Not that it’s an erotic novel, but sex plays a big part in the relationship of Bianca and Wesley, and is important to the development of the characters. For readers who believe in the purity of sex, or are opposed to casual sex, this novel might not be the best choice, as it does have a more casual approach to the topic, but in today’s times, it is quite relevant (despite how I feel about that personally).
I didn’t always buy the relationship Bianca had with her friends; she’s kind of a bitch, and they seem way too bubbly to want to hang out with her, but friendships grow from various places, particularly in high school, so I went with hit. The way Bianca treats her friends, however, is upsetting and annoying. Rather than opening up to them, a pair who seems very trustworthy and willing to listen, she lies and avoids them, causing rifts and drama. That being said, they didn’t seem to care all that much about her feelings either, as they constantly dragged her out to the Nest, a place she seemed absolutely miserable.
The message of the story, how everyone feels like the Duff, how name calling and shaming is just a way to put down a part of yourself, and how there are different types of beauty and connection, was also really appreciated.
In typical YA fashion, there was a love triangle, but it wasn’t your typical one. Instead of rooting for the good, perfect guy, the reader roots for the jerk, who maybe has more layers than just the one he’s projecting.
While it’s not the most groundbreaking or exceptional read, it was enjoyable, somewhat-light, and fun, and for a teenage writer, not a bad debut novel.