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

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest (Holly Black)

Publisher: Indigo
Pages: 272
Release Date: January 13th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

I received this book through a giveaway run by Daphne at Winged Reviews so massive thanks to her.

I’ve been on a bit of a fairytale rampage lately and this was more than satisfying. I’d heard a lot about it and was certainly not disappointed.

This books takes a lot of familiar fairytale creatures and myths and places them in the modern world, where humans live alongside the Folk, albeit not always happily. It’s amazing to see the juxtaposition of the modern and Folk worlds: the image of the Prince sleeping in his coffin made of tears while teenagers get drunk and make out around him just sang to me. It was great to see the way the two worlds blended and how the strange creatures and happenings weren’t just explained away, but (mostly) accepted as magical.

The characterisation in this book was brilliant. From the first chapter I identified so much with Hazel and was more than happy to follow her story along. It was easy to see how the secrets grew between her and her brother Ben, even though I kept yelling at them to ‘fess up and get it over with. But we all know how hard it can be to tell the truth after lying for so long…

One of the things that drew me to the book was the diversity I’d heard talked about: in the beginning, both Hazel and Ben are in love with the sleeping Prince. I loved their different relationships with the Prince but most of all I loved how normal it was: it wasn’t a big deal that a boy loved another boy, it was just there and it was normal and that’s how it should be! (Labouring the point there but I love diverse books that aren’t solely about being diverse).

I thought the world building worked wonderfully, and loved the different bits of mythology that was dropped in, some which I recognised and others which I now want to read more about. The monster of the forest was truly creepy – the words it spoke really chilled me – and the action sequences were heart pounding and intense.

This is my first venture into Holly Black’s writing and I’m already lining up more of her books to read. This is a magical read with action, romance and plenty of shocks and surprises littered throughout. A definite one to read this year.

My Verdict:

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Top Five… Female Protagonists

In honour of International Women’s Day last week, I’ve decided this week’s Top Five will be dedicated to my favourite and most inspirational women in YA fiction. There’s a lot to choose from so this was a particularly hard one to narrow down!


Rachel (Animorph series)
K. A. Applegate
Rachel is the ultimate tough girl/Xena: Warrior Princess. She finds herself one of Earth’s last hopes in a secret invasion and she kicks butt. I love the darker side of her character as she revels in the violence and danger, but also the vulnerabilities she can show and the fierce love she has for her sisters.

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series)
J. K. Rowling
Not only is Hermione brave and has a good hand in saving the wizarding world, she is smart with it and saves Harry and Ron’s skins plenty of times along their journey. She’s passionate about charitable causes (remember the Elf Liberation Front?) and she knows who she is, even if others don’t like it.
Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games series)
Suzanne Collins
She’s become a bit of an idol lately (helped by the amazing portrayal by Jennifer Lawrence). She’s strong, brave and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her little sister. She heads a revolution and manages to go through atrocities without becoming a monster herself.

Rialle (The Echorium Sequence)
Katherine Roberts
I’ve always loved Rialle, and one of the things I love most is how vulnerable she is and how she grows in the first book. She might cry easily and be afraid a lot but that doesn’t mean she’s not a strong women, and it doesn’t stop her from saving her friends. She risks herself to stop her home and friends being destroyed and you can’t help but love her.
And the winner is…
Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials)
Philip Pullman
Lyra was my inspiration growing up. She’s a little wild, headstrong and fiercely loyal and it was such a pleasure to follow her story. She doesn’t let anyone stop her from doing what she wants to and what she needs to. She’s another who makes great sacrifices to herself for the greater good, and the pain of that made me love her all the more.

Which women in books have inspired you?

Book Review: The Death Cure (Janes Dashner)

Publisher: Chicken House
Pages: 327
Release Date: 2011
Summary (From Goodreads):

Thomas knows that Wicked can’t be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they’ve collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It’s up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn’t know is that something’s happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can’t believe a word of what Wicked says.
The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

I may not have enjoyed it, but I have at least finished the series (don’t mention the prequel, I’ll get round to it eventually but I was losing the will to read and needed a good book). 
As predicted, this was a pretty unsatisfying end to a very unsatisfying trilogy. With all the comparisons to The Hunger Games I had high hopes and they have not been met at all. The thing about The Hunger Games was that, whilst obviously never likely to happen, everything still managed to sound plausible. You could see how they’d got to that state and how the games were used to control people. But with this series, I’ve not been able to suspend disbelief at all. I just don’t buy any of it, even with the vague explanations in this final book, nothing made sense. 
I think the most interesting point in this book was finding out that one of them wasn’t actually immune to the Flare. But I think that it could have been written with a lot more emotional pull, because the way it went down didn’t really do it for me (I seem to use that phrase a lot when talking about these books). The whole thing with Newt’s note didn’t play out realistically for me: I know he could have been being irrational on purpose but it just all felt too contrived. 
A really minor point that bugged me was when Brenda had to explain what a mall was. The whole memory loss thing was inconsistent: if he knew what a bowling alley was, or a football field then why not a mall? Silly, I know, but inconsistencies like that really jar me. 
I could go on about the flat characterisation and unsatisfactory ending but I’m sure you’re used to hearing that from me now. Safe to say I didn’t enjoy this book either and doubt I’ll be revisiting the series. 
My Verdict:

   Take it or leave it