Title: The DUFF
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little Brown/Poppy
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.
When this book came out, at least two or three years ago, I read the first few chapters of it online. I dismissed it, deciding the writing seemed too underdeveloped (that could have been partially influenced by the fact I read the author was only a few years older than me and still in college) and the characters seemed quite shallow. I decided I’d pass on it and mostly forgot about it. I kept hearing decent things about it, though, and many people praised the way Keplinger handled teenage sexuality. After a while, I decided I should at least give it a shot before judging it. And, while I wasn’t blown away by it, it was better than I expected.
The book started out the way I remembered – Bianca, the main character, seemed to spend most of her time whining and complaining about her fun-loving friends, who seemed shallow and even more irritating. I wasn’t very interested, but stuck with it, and luckily things got better as the story progressed. Bianca became less irritating and I started to actually care about her somewhat, and the other characters actually became real people rather than annoying clichés. By the end of the story, even though I didn’t immediately wish for a sequel, I was fairly satisfied with it overall.
As for the praise I’ve heard about how she handles teen sexuality in a refreshing manner, something that can be hard to find in YA books that continually have their ‘pure’ and ‘good’ protagonists slut-shaming the ‘bad girl’ antagonists who naturally hate the good girl just because. It’s been kind of a while since I read this book, but I think I remember it handling it fairly well, although there may have been some cases of looking down on other girls just because they were easy. Of course, since it’s been a while, I can’t remember for sure.
Overall, I think this was a decent book, and I’ve decided to try Keplinger’s future books to see if she improves over time, which seems pretty likely.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars