Friday, October 1, 2010
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 first heard of Kody Keplinger a while back when she got her book deal for The DUFF. It was big news in the blogosphere—teen author, debut novel, gritty topic. Then the colorful cover appeared, and I put it on my to-read list. After all that incredible hype, I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy The DUFF; sometimes, books just don’t live up to your expectations. Happily, this was not this case this time around.
The DUFF embodies everything I like in a coming of age story—the grittiness of teen life, an independent heroine, hilarious moments, and a romance on the side, of course. Every one of these was factored in brilliantly. This isn’t a squeaky clean novel by any means, and it shouldn’t be, because teen life isn’t squeaky clean and perfect—there’s tears and sweat and blood, if only in the context of breakups, the dreaded gym and the occasional nosebleed.
Bianca’s tribulations fell on the darker side of stressful, but that didn’t mean that she hid in a corner. She was snarky, and she stood up for herself. She might not have made the best choices, but she didn’t let herself get pushed around, which I really appreciated. Parents might not want their daughters looking up to a teen who isn’t strictly PG, but I think us teens have a lot to learn from Bianca.
That isn’t to say that there wasn’t the odd funny line or two; I quoted extensively from The DUFF. That on it’s own doesn’t say much, because my friends don’t usually find me read-aloud quotes funny, but the one-liners definitely prompted a giggle or two.
I must say that I’d never considered the ‘enemies-with-benefits’ concept before reading this book, but the outcome was both fiery and heartbreaking. I really enjoyed Wesley as a character; he may have been promiscuous, but he was good at heart and frequently amusing. Witty banter is almost a prerequisite for me loving a book, and there was plenty of back-and-forth between Wesley and Bianca.
Finally, the concept of the DUFF: The Designated Ugly Fat Friend. It’s observed later on in the book that we all have moments when we feel like the DUFF, whether it’s because our roommate has better thighs or because we didn’t get that ‘A’. Kody Keplinger does a great job of emphasizing that being yourself and trusting in your friends is a whole lot more important than your social status. It’s a truth that takes pretty much all of adolescence to learn, but hopefully one that you’ll be convinced of after reading The DUFF.
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