Monday, September 5, 2011

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF(Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger

Release Date: September 11, 2010
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 288
Format: Old ARC
Source: Friend

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.

The DUFF is one of those books that I had been eagerly anticipating long before it came out--the title alone was enough to get me on board--but for one reason or another I never actually managed to read it once it did.

Immediately after finishing this book, I wasn't entirely sure that I had liked it. There were things I wish had been further explored, things that bothered me, things I wanted fleshed out.... but despite those immediate reactions, this book is one that has stuck with me. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and despite having read multiple books since, I spend a disproportionate time reflecting on The DUFF.

Wesley Rush is one of the most crushable males I've encountered in fiction in a while, which might play into a large part of the novel's success. I liked him better than I liked Bianca, but I can also see what prompted his interest in her. The relationship is a funny one... in certain ways it moves crazy fast, in others you get to see them build up to it. I don't have any problem with the unconventional way in which it started, in fact, I admired Bianca's comfort in her own skin when she was around him--it made her beautiful to me as a reader too.

I liked that Kody never fully describes Bianca. You get a little description, but not enough to piece together an entire person, and I think that's kind of the point. Despite the preface of the story being based on the fact that she is "ugly," the story doesn't hinge on her actual appearance at all... but I'll leave you to read this and see what I mean for yourself.

I liked Bianca's fiesty personality and her willingness to stand up for herself, though even my hardened ears were overwhelmed at the sheer immensity of her bad language. I loved the complexity of the family dynamic, even if it was horrifying. The book is in many ways tragic; it chronicles the misguided and repeated failures of her parents despite their good intentions. I wanted to hate both her mother and her father, but their love for their daughter was so evident that it was hard to damn them, though easy to reproach them.

The friendship between the three girls was my least favorite part. It felt so shallow. Would a good friend drag you to a club week after week, only to leave you in the corner feeling annoyed and miserable? Not to say that Bianca doesn't do her fair share of isolating herself from her friends but... I guess that was the problem. I couldn't tell why either party liked the other. This improved marginally by the end, but I would have liked even more development. The author is clearly capable, because she succeeded in finding that depth with Wesley and Bianca.

All in all, the characters in this book are very flawed. It makes them frustrating, but it also makes them familiar. Don't go into this book expecting to like everyone, but expect to have an engrossing read about people who will--for better or for worse--stay with you for a while. Kody Keplinger has some beautiful, entirely-quotable moments, and some revelations that may seem obvious, but they clearly aren't obvious enough if we still need to be reminded. I stayed up until 6:00 AM to polish this book off, something even the best novels have not gotten me to do for a while, earning The DUFF 3 out of 5 Stars.

As for the covers, I was curious what you all think (both people who have and have not read the story). The one at the top is the one that was published on the hardcover, and the one below it the original cover that went out with the ARCs. As someone who was reading a hand-me-down ARC, I had the second. Aesthetically, I prefer the top one, but I think that the second better emblematizes the book. Between bubblegum and blue eyeshadow, this DUFF looks much perkier than the Bianca Piper readers will come to know, so I think it would have been more faithful to the book to keep the original cover... Agree? Disagree?

Slush Sleuth's Rating:

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