Rummanah Aasi
   I think we all had a moment in our lives where we feel insecure. We live in a society where physical beauty is defined in narrow terms and if you don't fall within those categories then 'something is wrong with you and this is how you fix it'. How else would you explain the billion dollar cosmetic industry? I thought about beauty, especially directed at teen girls, when I read 18 year old Kody Keplinger's promising debut novel called The Duff.

Description: Bianca knows she isn't as pretty as her two best friends, Casey and Jessica, but she doesn't consider herself unattractive that is until Wesley Rush, the school hottie, calls her the DUFF aka the designated, ugly, fat, friend, at the local high school hangout. Wesley admits he is only being 'nice' to Bianca in order to score with one of her hot friends. Like any respectable girl, Bianca spills her Cherry coke on Wesley and takes off. Whether she likes to admit it or not, Wesley's label haunts and hurts Bianca. To make things worse, things aren't so great for her at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And to her horror, she likes it. Eager for escape and the blissful silence she gets from Wesley, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him until it all goes horribly wrong. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up too. Suddenly Bianca realizes that she's falling for that one guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Review: The DUFF was an interesting read. I had read several reviews about the book throughout the blogosphere as well as on Amazon. It seems as if it's a book that you either loved or hated. I, however, fall somewhere in between. There are some aspects of the book that I loved, but I also had several problems with it.
    The best thing about the entire novel is the characterization of Bianca. She is a great, complex character. Her snarky, sarcastic, cynical voice is a pleasure to read. I enjoyed her humor and internal dialogue. I couldn't help but nod or laugh out loud at her remarks regarding high school. She would be the first to admit that she is flawed and not necessarily a shining role model for others. Bianca confesses her own insecurities and short comings. She also admits her mistakes. Readers get to see a vulnerable and honest Bianca, who worries about her family falling apart and keeping up with her friends. What I didn't like about Bianca, however, is how easily she resorts to sex as a way to prove her worth and to escape from her problems. I especially didn't like how she never truly faced any emotional backlash from anyone on how she dealt with things. Throughout the book, I never understood why she chose to have any relationship with Wesley, especially after he constantly insults her by calling her a DUFF and its other variations.
  Speaking of Wesley, I didn't enjoy his character at all. He reminded me of Rory's boyfriend Logan Huntzberger from my favorite tv show, Gilmore Girls (For the record, I was furious at her for dating him). He is arrogant, self centered, filthy rich, and I guess handsome. He virtually cares about nothing except finding someone who will warm up his bed for one night. Wesley, I guess, is the bad boy who surprise! has a good heart. I didn't buy it. I didn't like him from the start nor was I convinced that he changed throughout the story mainly because we actually don't see much of him outside of his physical relationship with Bianca. We get only a small glimpse of his life and his problems, but that too I thought was a bit cliched. I definitely needed more in order to convince me that he had a good heart and that he had transformed. I did not swoon over him, which is contrary to most of the other book reviewers. True, he could be somewhat charming, but for me, he had a lot of "ick" factor.
  I liked the idea of addressing DUFFs as a universal feeling that we all have. I also liked how it honestly portrayed the sexual parts of teen lives, though the execution wasn't as nearly as good as it could have been. Sure there were steamy parts, but I felt that the character development outside of Bianca was a bit flat. Strong issues such as alcohol abuse were brushed upon and not addressed. The book doesn't dig deep enough in its plot or characters and comes off as rather cliched.
 The DUFF has a really interesting premise and a great protagonist, but I was left wanting more. Keplinger definitely has talent and I am interested to see what she comes up with next and see how she grows as a writer.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language in the book as well as numerous sexual situations. The sexual situations aren't overtly graphic, but there is enough details to let readers know what is going on. Recommended for high school and up. 

If you like this book try:  The Lighter Side of Life and Death by CK Kelly Martin
3 Responses
  1. Vee Says:

    I haven't read The DUFF yet, but it sounds like something that's really incredibly honest and an absolute must-read. I know a lot of people have had problems with the way the sex is handled, but I find it pretty realistic to the way some teenagers I know behave.

    I really like how your review focused on both the positives and negatives of this book, though.

    Thanks for the honest, balanced review :)


  2. Jenny Says:

    I have this one on my list and like you have read a ton of glowing reviews for it so it was interesting to read your somewhat conflicting thoughts. It's fun to see how everyone reacts to the same books:) Bianca does sound like a fantastic heroine, one who might overshadow some of the other flaws you mentioned for me. Thanks for this review Rummanah!


  3. I really enjoyed this honest review! I agree that sometimes books like these are polarizing and I am usually in the middle of the road. I have not read this one yet but plan to if it comes to my library.


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