Title: The Duff
Author: Kody Keplinger
Published: September, 2010 by Little Brown
Purchase: The Book Depository
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.
I went into this book definitely not expecting what I found. These teens go at it so much. I’m not a prude, but damn, my eyes were bulging. Still, I got over that. I even started reading it aloud to see if I could shock Joey. With such a short page count, it was easy to fly through, and actually kind of addictive. It was told in such an honest way with Bianca’s first person narrative throwing digs at herself and those around her. However, I can’t say that I really liked the characters, in fact, Wesley, the lover interest (I’m pretty sure ‘lover’ is the right word in this instance), was beyond annoying. But then again, this book did come out back during the period when everyone swooned over douchey guys. So, while it wasn’t an instant favourite of mine, by rewinding my brain five years, I did enjoy it for what it was.
Bianca’s actions were strange, yet I did find them believable. It tackles issues surrounding degradation—both self-inflicted and from others—but it does it in a way that seems counter intuitive. Going back over and over to the one that puts you down seems illogical, but in real life that tends to happen too. At least here, as the book progressed I did start to see change in Wesley. He had more sides to him, more to his life that had made him the way he was. But, and that’s a big but, I was left wondering what kind of message it sends. Does it say, ‘stick it out, he may change’? Some toxic relationships are just toxic.
Back to the story—I did like the inclusion of all of the family drama, but it seemed to go back and forth between heavily including the parents to points where they were pretty much absent, allowing Bianca to do basically whatever she wanted. When they were there though, it was intense. I can’t say that I liked what happened, but I liked that it did happen. It gave more substance to Bianca’s actions. Otherwise, I probably would have been annoyed with her, telling her to stop—to sort her friendships out and get things on track.
The love triangle (which I use loosely as there wasn’t a whole lot of romance going on for the majority of the book) was actually a high point of the story for me. I think the second guy brought in a more traditional relationship for Bianca, boosted her esteem and brought some normalcy, something that her late night hook-ups weren’t providing. It did get hard to pick between them as the characters evolved, but it all seemed to work in the end, with all of the plotlines tying up quite neatly. A bit too neatly, but that’s just me. I don’t think it could have gone much further than it did. I closed the book and felt satisfied by all of it, though it was all a little clichéd.