Book Review: The DUFF (Kody Keplinger)

 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 343
Release Date: January 1st 2010

Summary (From 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.

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised how this book turned out. I read it after seeing the film trailer and I had a completely wrong impression of it. From the trailer, it looked like, after being called the Duff, Bianca had a makeover and got hot and won over the cute boy. It looked like a fun film but that wasn’t a message I could get behind in a book for teenagers.
That’s not quite how it goes in this book. After being called the Duff, Bianca falls for the person who called her it, despite the fact that he is a big man-whore and still insists on calling her Duffy. I did have a problem with this, as I couldn’t see how, even if he was providing her with escape, Bianca could let herself fall for someone who called her a nickname based on her being fat and ugly. It just doesn’t make sense in my head. If that was me, I would feel hurt and angry that he kept calling me that, and while Bianca does display these emotions, it doesn’t stop her going back to him again and again. While I know he wasn’t as shallow and awful as he appeared to be, it still didn’t make sense to me.
I found the characterisation in the book was often forced upon you: Bianca kept reminding us she was cynical and snappy, that Jess was bubbly and naive, that Wesley was smooth and a creep. It felt like I was constantly being told these things rather than showed, which made the characterisation seem a bit flat. The comparison to Wuthering Heights also seemed shoehorned in and that was jarring.
I’m glad that the overall message of the book wasn’t: if someone calls you fat and ugly, make yourself thin and hot. Instead, it leaned more towards: everyone sometimes thinks they’re the fat, ugly one, don’t let it get you down. I think the point was that everyone has insecurities, even your 6ft tall, skinny, blonde cheerleader friend. The message did get a little lost under all the romance complications though.
Overall I found this a pleasant bit of light reading. It’s a bit high-school drama for me, which isn’t really my cup of tea, but it does touch on some interesting issues of secrets, escapism and alcoholism. I’m sure a lot of people will be going to see the film and I hope they read the book first!

My Verdict:

I enjoyed – give it a read

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