Title: The Duff
Author: Kody Keplinger
DUFF = Designated Ugly Fat Friend. DUFF = Bianca Piper...or at least that's what she thinks. When Wesley Rush, playboy extraordinaire, defines that she is a DUFF, it's just one more problem to think about. Her parents' divorce, her dad's leap back into alcohol, and her friendships crumbling are all problems in her life. And when she finds her escape in Wesley, creating a rivals-with-benefits relationship with him, she falls into a web of lies, confusion, and conflict. Has she had enough? Will her life finally crumble to pieces? Or will she realize that love is right there the whole time?
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.
Full of sarcasm, wit, and humor, The Duff ferociously grabs readers with its sharp dialogue, deep insight, and original characters. The gritty reality that Keplinger embeds in The Duff is raw and vivid, completely penetrating the psyche of a teenager; full of angst, drama, and confusion. The concept of perceptions of beauty is unnervingly acknowledged in the novel, confronting problems and issues in current society. Accepting face-value is a another idea that is thoroughly explored in The Duff, amidst the skewed impressions of beauty.
Bianca remains consistent and true to her character through the development of the novel. Her personality is immediately grasped from the very beginning; cynical, sassy, and independent. But underneath her exterior, is a conflicted and confused teenager, using her quips and sharp remarks to hide behind. She is detached and disconnected towards her relationships but her insight give the reader a deep take on the immense scrutiny that teenagers have to deal with in reality. Biana's first-hand narration on her parents' divorce was extremely realistic and vivid, also recognizing alcoholism, and home violence in the process. Bianca's strong backbone is admirable and the snarky humor attached to her provides a balance of fun--in the midst of so much drama--for the reader.
Wesley's character stays strong as well, and his big ego is tangible through his flirty actions and words. The banter between him and Bianca is always clever and interesting. Though he may seem like the ultimate player; disrespectful, and detached--just like Bianca--Keplinger carefully unravels each layer, revealing the secrets and problems he keeps. As his fervent romantic relationship with Bianca turns into more, he starts to doubt what he really wants. His ulterior façade of popularity and perfection hides his familial problems and the inner-battles raging within him.
Loyal, and always reliable, Casey and Jessica are both endearing and hilarious. Casey is always fun-loving and supportive while Jessica is constantly optimistic and uplifting. Casey and Jessica are two completely different people, and yet, the relationship that Keplinger has built between them and Bianca is inspiring and strong. Both three-dimensional characters have their own problems, spotlighting attention on them as well.
With a fresh writing style and edgy characters, Keplinger's tenacious and impactful writing fearlessly explores controversial issues that are still hard-to-grasp today. Keplinger's bona fide prose delves deeper into themes of casual sex, alcohol abuse, violence, and teen-pregnancy without straying from a YA tone, as well as recognizing the consequences. These themes and concepts are introduced and probed tactfully with an authentic teenage mindset.
The Duff is a powerful, realistic, contemporary novel that isn't afraid to push the boundaries of teen life. Based upon the term 'Duff = Designated Ugly Fat Friend', Keplinger writes a book so completely and utterly true. The Duff completely envelopes the reader in an searingly honest take of a journey through heartbreak, love, and friendship.
The Bottom Line: So emotionally-demanding. So relatable. It's called real life.
My reaction/enjoyment: 10/10
Total Score: 96/100 (A+)