The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Poppy on September 7, 2010
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance (YA)
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.
This book includes mature subject matter that may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.
Kelly let me raid her book stash, and I came across this little gem. Normally, I have to read through a slew of summaries and inspect covers before deciding whether to take a chance on a new book. This one, however, caught me with the title alone.
We’re first introduced to cynical Bianca Piper as she sits at a bar in a club for teens. The bar is fully stocked with nothing stronger than soda, and her friends are living it up on the dance floor. While it’s the opening scene, it also seems to be quite the metaphor. Bianca isn’t anti-social or angsty, but she isn’t playing into any of those typical teenage girl games. She’s content to sit on the sidelines while her friends enjoy themselves.
Enter Wesley Rush. You know him already. He’s that boy you went to high school with, the boy who could have any girl he wanted (and often did), the one with the blinding smile and the rather small, selfish heart. He could be fun and seem interested, but he couldn’t be tamed. So you can imagine Bianca’ surprise and suspicion when he actually approaches her. However, unlike the standard good guy with amazing looks story line that many books go for, Wesley’s up to no good, and he has no problem telling Bianca exactly what his plans are.
“I actually need your help. You see, your friends are hot. And you, darling, are the Duff.” “Is that even a word?” “Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” he clarified. “No offense, but that would be you.”
Quite the charmer, isn’t he? Now this is where the book could have easily gone downhill. While I’ve never read a story in which the guy is this honest about his douchebaggery, I know the recipe well. Guy annoys girl, girl finally just puts up with him, they fall for each other even though they try denying it, and suddenly he realizes she’s the most beautiful woman in existence. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until happily ever after is nice and crisp. Fun, but not necessarily original. This story takes a bit of a different approach.
Bianca’s home life isn’t exactly ideal. Her always-on-the-road mother has decided to stay gone, surprising her father with divorce papers. As you can imagine, Mr. Piper doesn’t take the news well, falling off the recovery wagon and drowning his sorrows in drink. The dysfunction isn’t over the top, and the story doesn’t turn dark, but it’s still easy to understand why Bianca needs an escape. Much to both her own surprise and Wesley’s, she finds that escape with him. I’ll leave it there so as not to spoil it for everyone. Sure, you can probably imagine how it all ends, but the fun is in getting there.
Kody Keplinger captures well the rather directionless decisions typical of a high school girl overwhelmed by and denying her feelings for a seemingly unattainable boy. Bianca’s determination to build a relationship of substance with someone more suitable should resonate with both teens and the women who remember those years. Most impressive is that Keplinger manages to keep Bianca real. She’s not an overlooked beauty, and she doesn’t possess any conveniently adorable qualities. She’s just a typical girl going through the same growing pains we all did, and that makes it easy to get lost in the story.
There’s not much I can say on the negative side about this book. Occasionally, Bianca’s cluelessness about Wesley’s feelings and intentions struck me as rather immature, but given that it’s set in high school, that adds more to the realism than unnecessary drama. Remember how hard it was to decipher boys in high school? That hasn’t changed.
This was a really fun read, and once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I was even more blown away when I went to look up the author info for this post and discovered that it was actually written by a high schooler. Never would have guessed! It’s a new take on those confusing high school years, and it’s definitely worth the read.