Monday, December 13, 2010

REVIEW: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

by Kody Keplinger
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 7th 2010
Little Brown/Poppy


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.

REVIEW: Okay, I have to say, I was NOT expecting to like this book.  I don’t know why, it just didn’t seem like my type of book.  It seemed a little too, too high school for me.

Well, I am SO glad that I gave it a shot, because I really, genuinely enjoyed this one.  In fact, I didn’t put it down – I read it straight through from start to finish in about four hours.  This is a nice, simple, fun read on subject material that I think a lot of people can identify with.  There is quite a bit discussed in this book: girls liking boys, boys liking girls, girls pretending not to like boys, boys wanting to get laid (and the girls), feeling like the odd one out, marriages going wrong, some substance abuse (and not where you expect it), best friend tension, true camaraderie, domestic abuse, sex, and the reasons why people want it. 

This is Keplinger’s debut, and it’s not a perfect story – there are some places here and there that felt a bit awkward or had *appropriately* placed information because a transition was needed.  Here and there, the intended ‘haha’ moments fell slightly short.  The instances are few and mostly in the beginning.  However, Keplinger nailed the one area that truly matters to me in a book: characterization.  If you don’t have a full-bodied protagonist, then the bouquet of the books falls flat.  Bianca is one, fun, snarky protagonist.  She is gutsy, insecure, stressed out and loving.  For the most part, I think her reactions were authentic and on par with where they would be if this was real life.  Her insecurities, humor and relationships she has with a variety of characters carry the book.  She hits some truly rough patches; at times you feel so bad for her, and then she goes and does something that makes you go, “Oh, hon, what are you doing with yourself?”  If she were an older student in college, I might’ve wryly laughed, but since she is a 17-year-old in high school and had so much other stuff going on, I was a little scared for her.  It’s not that I think teenagers can’t engage in responsible sex (although I would encourage them to wait), but I was little worried for Bianca given her reasons for having it.  It simply wasn’t a mentally healthy choice.  Teenagers, however, make their mistakes just as adults do.  No one has a premium on poor choices, and this book exemplifies that on both sides of the age line.  I also appreciate that the book openly discusses protection as a matter-of-fact, not as an exception.  Eventually, Bianca does think over the decisions she made and decides how she will handle herself in the future.

The only other thing that I wanted to note is that the plot lines were taken care of a little too cleanly in the book – everything was nicely resolved, and you didn’t get this sense that any character was going to have to deal with the repercussions of anything that happened.  Not Bianca, her dad or mom, nobody was going to have to deal long-term with too many things.  Now, I am not a glutton for seeing people punished and moping, but some really heavy stuff happened.  It was all dealt with somewhat lightly, and there was a bit of a, "Oh, over and done," feeling.  The things that Kody had to handle are a huge deal, especially at that age, but it just didn't feel like any weight was going to be carried forward - it was very 'all's well that ends well'.  In the case of one particular instance, I am appalled.  However, this is high school, and I remember it feeling pretty much like that at times.  After all, this is a nice, light read, but given the things that happened, I expected an unresolved, but keep on truckin' feeling.  It felt like Sex and the City meets My So-Called Life with a Full House-ish ending (cue the music).

Despite what I've said above, I truly enjoyed this book and recommend that you give it a try. People seem to love or really not like it (I haven't seen anyone hate it).  It's not perfection, but it's a good, solid story with a lot of things to love.  I found it easy to identify with Bianca - my parents split up in high school, and I was defensive and insecure then, too.  Her friends rock.  My heart warmed to Bianca, her friends and even Wesley.  I LOVED the character of Casey – she is an intelligent person, calls it the way she sees it, and is a good, loyal friend.  I wouldn’t mind seeing her with a book of her own that gives her own backstory.  Overall, The DUFF is a fun book that you will sink into and easily read.  Keplinger has a solid debut here, and I am looking forward to her sophomore effort and will certainly pick it up.

Favorite Quotes

“Wesley Rush was the most disgusting womanizing playboy to ever darken the doorstep of Hamilton High. . . but he was kind of hot.  Maybe if you could put him on mute. . . and cut off his hands. .  .maybe- just maybe-he’d be tolerable then.  Otherwise, he was a real piece of shit.  Horn dog shit.”
Pg. 5

“Everyone loved my mother. She was funny, intelligent, and gorgeous.  She looked a lot like Uma Thurman-as far from being a Duff as you could possibly get.  All of her flaws were hidden behind that pretty face, and her smile could deceive people into thinking she was perfect.”
Pg. 123

“Bianca, whore is just a cheap word people use to cut each other down,” he said, his voice softer.  “It makes them feel better about their own mistakes.  Using words like that is easier than really looking into the situation.  I promise you, you are not a whore.”
-Wesley, Pg. 176

“Calling Vikki a slut or a whore was just like calling somebody the Duff.  It was insulting and hurtful, and it was one of those titles that just fed off the inner fear every girl must have from time to time.  Slut, bitch, prude, tease, ditz.  They were all the same.  Every girl felt like one of these sexist labels described her at some point.”
Pg. 256


  1. I have yet to pick this book up but with your review, I'm going to have to. Great review.

  2. Linds! We are book twins today:) I really enjoyed this one as well and I think what I liked so much about it was that it wasn't perfect. It wasn't overly eloquent, the characters were hard to like at times, and there were real problems that though I couldn't always relate to them, still made me connect to the story. Really nice review, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it since I just finished it as well:)

  3. @Savanah - yea! I hope you like it! Please let me know what you think!

    @Jenny - Woohah for TwinDay! You're right - the book is written in very simple, plain language. Yeah, I know what you mean - I never had a Bianca & Wes situation in HS, but haha, I can understand why she wanted to ;)

  4. Couldn't agree with you more on your thoughts from start to finished. Loved reading this review as a result, constantly going "YES! EXACTLY!" in my mind as I read :)

  5. I loved reading your review. This one sounds very real, and reality can sometimes suck. It sounds like that feature is what has turned off some people. I want to keep your review in mind and read it again once I've read the book. I have a feeling I'll be nodding along with your review then, agreeing with all your points.

  6. I, too, have seen mixed reviews of this book but I really enjoyed your review, the way you phrased things, so I think I'll add this to my TBR.

  7. I'm so glad to see a positive review on this. It's been on my list to read, and now I'm looking even more forward to reading it! It sounded a little too high school for me at first too, but something about it just appealed to me.

  8. l LOVE it when books shock you and you enjoy it. l am hoping that with my next read!
    Posted link to this review at the bottom of my latest review =)

  9. Great review! I so glad you enjoyed this book. I love this book and agree the one thing that bothered me slightly was that everybody life worked out too perfectly in the end for all the secondary characters.

  10. I am loving all this DUFF love!!! I really was charmed by it, even though I was kind of disturbed at times, too!

    @BfC - thanks!

    @Nic - yeah, I know exactly what you mean!


  11. "It was all dealt with somewhat lightly, and there was a bit of a, "Oh, over and done," feeling."

    Linds, it sounds like a (possible subtle or unintentional) nod to our changing society. I believe the author was 18 when she wrote this or she'd just turned 18 or something like that. She is young. Not that that discredits her in any way, but a new generation is forming, and I think it is bring with it a change in deep seated emotions and how quickly one can just "get over it."

    Great review. I haven't read this one yet, but I really want to to give it a try soon.

  12. What a great review! I didn't really expect to like this book either, but was amazed by how real the characters felt to me! I expected to hate Wesely, but found that I couldn't...

    I agree that some important things weren't addressed as well as they could have been, but overall, this was quite the impressive debut!