Title: The Duff
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Source: Hachette Children’s Books on NetGalley (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)
Check this book out on Goodreads.
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 “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that 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. (Source: Goodreads)
Bianca is cynical and angry, she loyally hangs out with friends she believes are above her. When Wesley tells her she the DUFF in her friend group she is thrown, and angry. But family problems lead her to needing a distraction and she finds that distraction in Wesley and Wesley’s bed. It turns out Wesley is a great escape but maybe what she needs isn’t to escape, it’s to face everything head on – including the feelings she’s developing for Wesley.
I’m on the fence about The Duff. I found the writing subpar, the plot a little hard to follow, but I thought it had a pretty wonderful message for the most part, and it was overall a pretty fun read. I didn’t really relate to a lot of the characters and found Bianca’s attitude a little difficult to read because it largely seemed unfounded. I could never fully get into the book, which made it quite disappointing – even if for a moment it had a fantastic message about not labelling people.
The plot of The DUFF makes use of some pretty standard YA tropes: angsty teen, parental problems, love triangle. I found this all very uninteresting, it wasn’t done in some amazing new way. I didn’t find the plot all that original overall, except perhaps from its approach to sex, sexuality, and the issue of “slut shaming”. The book takes a very open and honest approach to the idea that shaming someone for being sexually active is not right, which is such a fantastic message. I absolutely loved Keplinger’s approach to this as it was so positive and wonderful to read. It’s just sad that the rest of the book was such a letdown.
I didn’t connect with Bianca at all. I found her attitude too negative right from page one, and it was very hard to get to the point where you understand why she’s so angry. Prior to the point where you learn about her family falling apart and her ex-boyfriend she’s just a typical angry for no reason teenaged blah character. Even when Keplinger establishes these issues in her life though, she’s still unrelatable. I didn’t see any other standout characters in the book. Wesley was fairly interested but honestly inconsistent. All of the characters are kind of inconsistent, mostly being bent into place to fit the waves of drama that Keplinger writes.
I also found the actual writing subpar. I don’t know what it was but the way the book was written left me feeling sour towards it. I don’t know if it was the way Keplinger had to reinforce the references by breaking them down, or the way she developed the relationships and characters without much feeling involved. To me it was just not great,
I definitely think The DUFF had some great qualities but it isn’t a book I would recommend to all of my friends or anything. I think there are other books with similar messages that I would reach for over this one.