by Kody Keplinger
Hardcover, 288 pages
by Kody Keplinger
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 7th 2010
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.
“Wesley Rush was the most disgusting womanizing playboy to ever darken the doorstep of
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.” Hamilton
“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.”
“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.”