Seleste Reviews: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

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. And eventually, through this realization, Bianca begins to see how harmful her unhealthy way of dealing with her problems has been, and finds a way to confront them head on.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Price: $8.99
  • Publisher: Poppy (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316084247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316084246
  • Buy The DUFF at Amazon
Another review in my continuing efforts to read all the stuff I haven’t been reading. The DUFF isn’t your typical YA romance. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to call it a romance at all. If that’s what you’re looking for, I strongly suggest you look elsewhere. Also? If sex (especially non-pretty sex) or cursing in YA bothers you, this is not the book for you.
Having said all that, I liked The DUFF quite a bit. I hesitate to say I “enjoyed” it because it’s not that kind of book. The DUFF is a more raw look at the types of things people (especially teenagers) do when they’re trying to come to grips with their lives. Bianca hates everything, but one of the things she hates the most is rich, womanizing Wesley Rush. She hated him before he explained to her that within her trio of friends she was the DUFF (the Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she hates him more after. But as her crush continues to ignore her and her parents’ marriage is falling apart, she sees Wesley as the chance at a desperate, fool-hardy escape from her life and kisses him.
That’s it. She kisses him. And for a brief, blissful moment, she forgets about everything else and life moves on.
Then they’re assigned to work together on a project on the very day her mother sends divorce papers and her father starts drinking again. She ends up at the Rush mansion and all bets are off. She wants to forget about her absentee mom and her dad and how he just threw away eighteen years of sobriety and what that might mean for her. She just wants to forget everything. So she has frantic, angry sex with Wesley. (Remember when I mentioned non-pretty sex? Yeah. This is why.)
That’s how their relationship progresses. He uses her for sex. She uses sex with him to forget. It is a horribly unhealthy and frighteningly real relationship. But eventually, they start to talk and get to know each other which only terrifies Bianca. Add to that the fact that she starts feeling pangs of jealousy when she sees him flirting with other girls, and she can’t help but re-examine (over and over) her status as the DUFF until things finally come to a head.
As I mentioned, this isn’t a pretty relationship. It deals with a girl who had major self-esteem issues before finding this horrible word (DUFF) and a guy who’s running from his own dysfunctional family by throwing himself into meaningless relationship after meaningless relationship. It’s not supposed to be pretty.
And that’s where the book went a little wrong for me. Instead of sticking with raw and real, it dove into romance novel territory at the end and wrapped everything up in a pretty little bow. The ending felt a bit trite to me because of it being too “perfect.” There were a few other minor issues, but that was the big one.
You won’t be able to read The DUFF and like Bianca or Wesley as they aren’t horribly likable, but if you’re at all like me, you will read it wondering if at your worst you came close to hitting those same lows.
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