The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, published September 2010 by Poppy.
Read: March 2015
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Source: Publisher – this does not affect my opinion of the book.
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: 17 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.
I had seen this book around the book blogs, and when I learned a movie was coming out based on it – I was super intrigued. The term DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend, while hugely insulting, was a feeling I’m sure most girls could at least relate to, and I was looking forward to this read. Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority who just didn’t gel with this book. I didn’t connect with the story, or the characters, and at times I struggled to get through it.
For me, the main character’s voice (Bianca) is incredibly grating, unlikable and annoying – there was a lot of slut-shaming, and overly confusing loyalties and friendships. For most of this novel I questioned why these people were even friends. The family-issues were depicted well, but the realism of living and dealing with those issues wasn’t, in my opinion. I struggled to continue with the read, often wanting to reach into the pages and knock some sense into our MC. I just couldn’t connect with this on the level I was hoping to.
Granted, the MC is 17, and I’m sure at 17 I could be equally annoying, with little conviction and confused ideals, but it really does grate on me when I read novels like this as I don’t think the message in this book was portrayed as well as it could have been. I just felt this read didn’t do 17 year-olds justice, especially for our MC. My notes for this book read as the following:
“Having serious issues with the MC’s attitude!”
“Who does she actually think she is?! She’s like a bully who doesn’t think she’s a bully and acts a victim while hating on EVERYONE.”
“Questioning the friendships in this book – why is the MC even friends with these girls?”
“Why is the whole book obsessed with being tall, blonde and skinny?”
“Plot-twist that comes from nowhere…”
“Wow, that was an uncomfortable rape culture joke.”
Here is an actual quote from our MC, to a boy about his reading Jane Eyre – “I’ve read Jane Eyre, which was definitely full of early feminism. I’m not saying that’s a problem. Personally, I’m a total feminist, but it’s a little sketchy for a teenage boy.”
After reading this book, I found out the author was just 18 when it was published – good on her, a wonderful achievement, but if I’m picking up any of her work in the future, I’m going to be looking for some serious growth and development as a writer. Still looking forward to seeing what they do with the movie, the on-screen adaptation may allow for more irony in the humour, which may ease the pain.
Have you read The Duff? Did you love it? I have seen the movie and will be posting a review soon!