Review : The DUFF, Kody Keplinger

The duff article

I’m the kind of person who really likes to read a book before seeing a movie. So, obviously, when I heard about a movie called, The Duff, I had to check out the book before, eventually, seeing it. I must admit, hearing about this a lot, and seeing it absolutely everywhere, played a great role in my wanting to read this. I thought it had to be something special : honestly, I was a little disappointed. Here’s why.

“You can lie to yourself if you want, but reality is going to catch up with you. I’ll be waiting when it does… whether you like it or not.”

This story is an average high-school story, filled with popular girls, jocks, nerds, the average people. Nothing too original in this, but I’m not against it. When average seventeen years-old Bianca Piper gets called, “the Duff : designated ugly fat friend“, by popular, womanizer Wesley Rush, everything falls apart. And, somehow because she thinks it might make it better, she decides to kiss the guy who just insulted her. Hm, hello, doesn’t something seem wrong, here? So, that’s the story. Bianca trying to escape everything, by making out with Wesley, mostly. I found things were happening too fast, way too fast…and it felt wrong. This idea of a plot just felt very wrong to me. I’m not saying this is a bad book, it has some good sides, but honestly, some points of this plot weren’t right. Did I read it until the end? Sure : I wanted to know what would happen next. Because I was mainly curious of this story. We went off to a bad start, but I thought, it can get better, can’t it?

About the characters…I had a hard time with some of them, I’ll admit it. I said it before in my reviews, and I’ll say it again : relatable characters, or at least ones you can sympathise with on a mimum amount, are the key. In The Duff, I didn’t feel any of those things with the main character, Bianca. I couldn’t really understand her, and her whole behaviour, especially towards her relationship with Wesley. She’s a sarcastic, cynical teenager. And that’s not bad : at least, she felt real, on that. Most teenagers are kind of selfish and bothering, with their mood swings and snarky come-backs. Bianca knows she’s all that, and she owns it, all through the book. That was a good, a really good point. Sadly, it didn’t make me like her more. What bothered me the most about her, is her change of attitude thorough the book. She starts a sort of friends with benefits relationship with Wesley, and suddenly she’s MIA for her friends. When, at the beginning of the book, I really enjoyed that quality of hers : okay, she wasn’t the most appreciative girl, but at least I thought I would enjoy her loyalty. Well, look at that go away. This disappointed me in this story. I kind of expected a lot, seeing all the fuss about this, but Bianca’s character didn’t live up to my expectations.

““Just remember to do what makes you happy, okay? Don’t lie to yourself because you think it’s safer. Reality doesn’t work like that. I think I told you that before.”
She had. But I’d been running for so long I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore.”

Overall, this book was an enjoyable read. I know, I seem like I’m saying the contrary just before, but don’t get everything wrong : it was distracting. Even if I didn’t enjoy Bianca’s character a lot, she was refreshing to read about. The other characters seemed real to me, too. I really liked the trio’s friendship (Jessica, Casey and Bianca). Toby’s character was nice to read, too. However, he seemed a bit like a walking-cliché to me, like Wesley was. The good guy (Toby), the bad guy (Wesley), and obviously, Bianca getting caught in between. Love triangle. Again. That was a little bit annoying, but, to be honest, it enlightened my mood : I was getting tired of Bianca and Wesley’s messed-up relationship, and Toby getting in the picture was a nice change. On things that I enjoyed, I also need to talk about the sex part of this book. It happens, in this book, and more than once, even if we don’t get all the details (otherwise this wouldn’t be young adult). I’m a bit conflicted about sex in this book : I liked the fact that the author wanted to deal with that, as it’s in a teenager’s life. However, maybe there was a little bit, too much. I mean, they’re in high school, and Bianca uses sex as an escape. Doesn’t that seem a bit…wrong, to you ? It did, for me.

I would advice this book, if you want a good distraction, and just that. It depends on people, but for me, this wasn’t one of the reads of the year. There was an interesting theme, at first : people being labeled in high school. Noticed how I didn’t talk about that in my review? Well, that’s the part it’s taking in the book: not much. This disappointed me a bit : I was looking for a great book dismanteling all the clichés about high school labels, and it was just in the background, in this strange-but-distracting-and-weird-confusing-relationships book. Sadly, I wasn’t convinced, but maybe I will be by the movie, who knows.

Biggest thanks to Hachette Children’s Books and NetGalley for the digital version of this book

Kody Keplinger, The Duff, published by Little Brown/Poppy, September 7th 2010.


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.

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