The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: September 7, 2010
How Received: Won
Summary: 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 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 picked up The Duff because I wanted a light-hearted read, and someone had recommended it to me as such. It was definitely that, and more (the romance seriously made me giddy a couple of times there!). A word of forewarning for those of you who screen books: this book uses f-bombs and other vulgar words out there like they’re toilet paper.
Bianca was such a lovely character to read. Not because I love cynical girls, but because she wasn’t your typical Mary-sue goody-two-shoes. I enjoyed reading her narrative because it was so far, yet so close, to how I would react or how I’d think in certain situations. She’s level-headed and attempts to rationalize through things as best as she can, even though she hates nearly everything. But the best part about Bianca? She makes mistakes. A lot of them. I loved the realism to her character, because girls do sometimes forget about their friends when they have a new love interest or other things going on. They have boy problems and hate the world and have self-esteem issues, and when you’re a teenager, it’s a very confusing time. I loved how well these issues translated into Bianca’s character. The only thing I didn’t like that involved Bianca was that we really never got to form our own opinions of her. Kody gave us adjectives to describe Bianca (like cynical, blunt, stubborn, smart, etc.) and usually when I’m explicitly given adjectives for a character, I never get a feel for who that character is. Small dislike, but dislike nonetheless.
Wesley, the main love interest (sort of? lol), was equally as intriguing as Bianca, and I’m a bit sad we didn’t get to see more of him. I enjoyed reading about him every single time, because the one thing he was is unpredictable. He had so many dimensions to him—it was almost like we were looking at a person with a very blatant public face and private face. On the outside, he’s confident, arrogant, man-whorish, and a jerk. On the inside, he’s gentle, caring, a great listener, lonely, and just wants to be accepted for who he is.
I really, really wish we had gotten more romance from Wesley and Bianca. I mean, what we got was great, but I wanted more! Their “fling” starts off with a bang and gets rolling right away, but their gradual interest with each other was what I loved the best. Bianca initially hates Wesley, but he grows on her after a time, and it was a refreshing change of pace in comparison to other novels. At the end, I couldn’t help but be giddy with everything Wesley was throwing at Bianca. That “Wesley Rush does not chase after girls, but...” line at the end had me going nuts! (I got giddy again right now just thinking about it!)
Mostly, I think this book was great for the message it delivered. Names like DUFF (which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend), or slut, or bitch, etc, are hurtful, even when they aren’t meant in a mean way. Even the strongest of girls will be put down, no matter how much they deny it doesn’t hurt them. And also, everyone will feel like a DUFF at one point in their lives. I know I have, and I still do. Beauty is subjective, and while you think your best friend is the most gorgeous person on the planet, she might think she looks hideous. But perhaps being the Duff is also a good thing, because it means you have friends to be compared to; you’re not alone, and that’s what matters.
Cover Musings: The cover is what grabbed me, really. I mean, huge DUFF splayed across the entire cover and partially covering the girls face. How could I not be intrigued? Then I got close enough to see what DUFF meant (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), and was sold. I had never heard of this term before, so props to the design team for piquing my interest.
“You, darling, are the Duff.”“Is that even a word?”“Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” he claried. “No offense, but that would be you. It’s not like you’re an ogre or anything, but in comparison...” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “You have hot friends... really hot friends.” He paused, watching the action on the dance floor for a moment, before facing me again. “The point is, scientists have proven that every group of friends has a weak link, a Duff. And girls respond well to guys who associate with their Duffs.” (pg. 6)
“I know you hate him,” she continued. “I wanted to make sure you were fine... and that he was okay, too. You didn’t, like, stab the boy, did you? I mean, I totally disapprove of murdering hotties, but if you need help burying the body, you know I’ll bring the shovel.” (pg. 72-73)
When we reached the door of the unused janitor’s closet, I had no feeling of shame... not yet, at least.I grasped the doorknob and noticed Wesley’s eyes narrow with suspicion. I yanked open the door, checked that no one was watching, and gestured for him to go inside. Wesley walked into the tiny closet, and I followed, shutting the door stealthily behind us.“Something tells me this isn’t about The Scarlet Letter,” he said, and even in the dark I knew he was grinning. (pg. 83)
“But I was wrong,” she said. “I thought I could escape from my problems, but I was so wrong, Bianca. No matter where you go or what you do to distract yourself, reality catches up with you eventually.” (pg. 125-126)
The lump wasn’t going away. It just kept growing. All of my worries and fears had been leading up to this moment, and I couldn’t fight them back anymore. I couldn’t keep them bottled up. Tears started gushing down my cheeks, and before I knew it I was sobbing.How had this happened? It felt like a bad dream.I felt like my world was finally spinning out of control. And this time, I couldn’t deny it. I couldn’t ignore it. And I definitely couldn’t escape it. (pg. 173)
That was something we all had in common. We were all sluts or bitches or prudes or Duffs.I was the Duff. And that was a good thing. Because anyone who didn’t feel like the Duff must not have friends. Every girl feels unattractive sometimes. Why had it taken me so long to figure that out? Why had I been stressing over that dumb word for so long when it was so simple? I should be proud to be the Duff. Proud to have great friends who, in their minds, were my Duffs. (pg. 257)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: This was the perfect book to break me out of my sad funk lately. It had a very light-hearted premise. While it dealt with a few deep issues, it didn’t delve too far or get me too depressed reading about it. The Duff had some very strong messages about self-esteem, and I would recommend it to any teenager (that doesn’t mind excessive swearing). The romance was cute, and Wesley was so amazing from every angle. Not only does this book have great messages to deliver, but it screams realism at you – I loved Bianca, her outlet with Wesley, her gradual romance with him, her two best friends. This book was just plain honest and it was done well.
**I submitted this review to the 2010 Debut Author Challenge!
**I submitted this review to the 2010 Debut Author Challenge!