The Duff – by Kody Keplinger
Written by 19-year old Kody Keplinger, The Duff is a fast-paced YA novel about standing out for all the wrong reasons. I’ve read this book before but have been hankering for a re-read for the last few weeks. I finally gave in – and like the last time, I read this in one sitting, in less than a day. Here’s why:
Bianca calls herself a typical seventeen year old girl. (Personally, I think she’s a-typical in the best way.) She’s sarcastic, defensive and a little bit more grown up than people expect. And, so Wesley Rush kindly informs her one fateful evening, she’s the DUFF. The Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Ouch.
Wesley blithely elaborates that this doesn’t mean Bianca’s ugly, per se – just that her friends are SO much hotter than she is that she might as well be an actual troll for all the attention she’ll get. Double freaking ouch. Wesley finally shuts up when he gets Bianca’s drink in his face, but that’s only the beginning.
Bianca’s got a whole lot more to worry about than the opinions of pathetic little creeps like Wesley. Her Mum’s been “on the road” giving motivational speeches for years now, and the finally drops the other shoe by asking Bianca’s Dad for a divorce. By mail. Clearly it’s too much trouble to drop by and tell your husband and daughter that you’re not coming home. Bianca’s Dad, sober for nineteen years, doesn’t take the news well. At all. And suddenly Bianca’s got to figure out how to be the grown up when both her parents are acting like children. Or worse.
So, what can a girl do to distract herself from the family life that’s slowly imploding around her? Well, as it turns out, you end up kissing Wesley (mostly just to shut him up). And as it turns out, it’s kind of fun. And a REALLY good diversion. The only problem? Wesley might not be as shallow and awful as his behaviour suggested. And the last freaking thing Bianca was looking for were more, complicated, feelings.
I LOVE THIS BOOK. I don’t think this is even an entirely rational thing. It’s just this alchemical, perfect combination of smart, jaded, funny, optimistic and real that pushes all the right buttons. Bianca is so much more than your typical teen protagonist. She’s absolutely authentic – bad decisions, wavering self-esteem and a healthy dose of denial included. I defy readers not to identify with her.
The story tends towards the melodramatic only once or twice, with a pitfall into too-many-plot-points, but it didn’t make me enjoy the ride any less. Wesley’s, well, Wesley. He’s the bad boy with a heart of gold. Or something pretty close and good enough. The friends are great, and the tension between these girls as their lives change so much in such a short period is true to life, avoiding the too-often seen cliché of girls turning on each other for no other reason than that they’re not the main character.
The Duff is exactly what I want in a YA novel – and if you’re a fan of any of the YA I’ve mentioned here before, I’d bet you’d like The Duff too.
What are you waiting for?!