Friday, February 19, 2016

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Reviewed by Ambrea

Bianca Piper is a cynic.  She doesn’t really believe in love, she doesn’t believe in forever, and she doesn’t put much stock in personal beauty.  She knows she’s not the prettiest girl among her friends, but she knows how to take care of herself—even when Wesley Rush, one of the richest and most attractive boys in school, mocks her and calls her “Duffy” (a moniker for what he calls the Designated Ugly Fat Friend).  After throwing her drink in his face, she moves on with her life.

But when things turn sour at home, Bianca somehow finds herself kissing Wesley—and she discovers, to horror, that she likes it.  Looking for a distraction from her train wreck life, she jumps into a secret, no-strings-attached relationship with Wesley and she discovers that he isn’t so bad.  He’s not a bad person and, much to Bianca’s surprise, he’s actually a good listener—which makes her wonder, does she really hate Wesley Rush as much as she claims?

I enjoyed reading The Duff; in fact, I enjoyed it enough that I finished it within a couple of days.  The Duff is not quite a coming-of-age story, as one might expect.  It’s more of a high school survival story, a novel about self-realization and emotional development that confronts adolescent issues (like relationships and love, sex, divorce, alcohol and addiction, and growing up) in a way that feels real and accessible.

I also liked that Bianca was unafraid to share her story, and I like that she was so self-sufficient and strong-willed.  She battles with her own internal conflicts—I mean, what teenager isn’t suffering from some kind of social or emotional conflict?—but she works through her problems on her own, she admits her mistakes, and she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or her friends.  She’s smart, she’s quick-witted and snappy, and she doesn’t try to let anyone bring her down.

She does a fine job of telling her story; however, I should point out that she’s also a teenager and her narrative skills leave a little something to be desired.  I found her tone was often bitter and I nearly choked on adolescent angst.  It was a good book, and I completely understand why Bianca often vocalized her negativity in the form of foul language, insults, and sharp retorts, but it sometimes made The Duff a little less than enjoyable.

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