The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: 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.
My take: I am conflicted with this book. I'll say right now the book is laden with sex and strong language. Bianca uses Wesley as a distraction. Her parents are divorcing, her dad's turned into a raging alcoholic, her mother is M.I.A. and Wesley, the boy she loathes especially since designating her as the Designated Ugly Fat Friend, is partnered with her in a school project on Hester from the Scarlet Letter. So what does she do? She sleeps with him. Over and over and over again. She also keeps secrets from her real friends who could really help and support her rather than alienating herself from those that love her.
That's the bad.
The good is that the story's conclusion is Bianca's growth as a person. She realizes that people can not be put into categories, labels hurt and they don't even fit. Duff, Slut, Man-Whore are ways of simplifying complex beings that can not be so easily slid into neat compartments. She also realizes that she may have been using Wesley but she really does care about him and wants to get to know him better - without sex. At least until they've grown into that phase of the relationship.
My tirade keeps returning to the sex. I know I'm a prude and I embrace that. I also know that sex occurs in relationships. Not all, as my single years clearly attest but I'm not blind that I may have been atypical (still cute, though). On the other hand, the sex is so blatant and constant by not only the protagonist and her man-whore, but most of the high school students. Yes, Bianca realizes she has erroneously used sex as a distraction and now she loves Wesley, but there is A LOT of sex. Much, much more than I am comfortable with having my own teenager read. Much more than I was comfortable reading. And I like sex. I do.
Continued tirade but this is a spoiler - so Wesley cares about her, too. Really? Not too cheesy? Could it really be true? Put out for months, multiple times a week and maybe, just MAYBE, he might fall in love with you. Chances are much better that you will contract a venereal disease or find yourself pregnant.
I'm just saying.
Kody Keplinger is a very young author. Regardless of her age and experience, she has a clear voice in YA fiction and relates well to her readers. We've all felt like the DUFF at one time or another. Ultimately, the story comes down to self-acceptance, sticking by those you love, and talking to those who are self-destructing. Letting them know you care.