Book Reviews

The DUFF – Kody Keplinger

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.

Discovery: A boatload of buzz on blogs I follow had me writing this on my to-read list.

+     The cover. I thought it was one of the most interesting covers I’ve seen in the last few months. It’s pretty simple, but eye-catching all the same and the title was fun to play around with.

+     Supporting characters. Bianca’s friends were three-dimensional and interesting. I know it might not sound like much, but they got me through the rest of this book and its negative points. I would probably have been more interested in a book from their points-of-view rather than Bianca’s, simply because they were less vicious about life.

–    Bianca Piper. I understand that the reader is meant to feel all of the insecurity and fear that Bianca lives with on a daily basis. Problem is, The DUFF‘s audience already feels them. I’m 22 years old, and it was horrible to have to return to that pit of emotions. But when the narrator starts spewing vitriolic rants at everyone around her? I’m not going to pity her for being designated as the Ugly Fat Friend. The best characters are ones that the reader can sympathize with, even if they don’t like them (see: Severus Snape). Bianca irritated me enough that I felt no pity for her or her situation. I am also at a loss to understand why she decided that hooking up with the guy who insulted her was a good idea.

The comparisons that Keplinger tries to draw between her book and Wuthering Heights and The Scarlet Letter fall extremely far from the mark. Bianca is no Cathy or Hester, but a cynical, sharp-tongued girl who can’t seem to see her own self-worth, even at the end of the novel. Feminists aren’t bitches, and it’d be nice to read a novel where a girl can figure out her own value without belittling everyone around her.

–     Unnecessary preaching. After reading this book, the only word that I could think of was UNNECESSARY. The language, the characterizations, the attempts to be self-depreciating: none of these things actually endear you to the characters or the plot. I’ve read Harlequin romance novels with more heart that this book, which is a shame because the author herself seems to have been inspired by her own experiences. (see back inside cover)

I’m not aiming to belittle Kody Keplinger’s experiences or anyone else’s. This book simply did not make me feel anything. I closed the cover without any deep sense of satisfaction with the somewhat-happy ending or even a spark of interest. Bianca–and in turn, the novel–shout quite loudly into your ear, but do they really say anything worth hearing? Does Bianca actually achieve any sort of self-worth without anyone else’s influence?

Recommendations: I would not recommend this book. I believe it served its purpose as a form of catharsis and it may work that way for some readers. In the end, however, it does not inspire action or real critical thinking about social situations.

Rating: Poor.

Kody Keplinger’s site is here.

Next review: Teeth, various authors


Categories: Book Reviews, YA fiction

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