Magonia Maria Dahvana Headley

The D.U.F.F.
by Kody Keplinger  

published on September 7th, 2010 by HarperCollins
young adult | contemporary | romance

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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.

Book Review

I ran into this one on Netgalley after having heard about it in passing earlier.  The D.U.F.F. is sort of a candy book, the kind that I can really enjoy if I don’t think too hard about the plausibility or downsides.  For example, is a perennial player like Wesley really going to settle down, in real life?  Probably not, but his tete a tete with Bianca is satisfyingly bantery throughout the book.  There are some iffy spots, but it’s a fun, sex positive summer read.

I was quite intrigued by the premise.  Having felt very much like Bianca through much of high school and college, I was really able to connect with her insecurities and her guilty resentment.   I think she’d be difficult for some people to like.  She’s perpetually snarky, closed off, and cynical.  So naturally I loved her.  She feels like the ugly friend in the group, so being with Wesley is freeing.  There are no strings, so she never has to worry if it’s real.

If you’ve ever seen a 90s teen movie, you’ll know what to expect.  Bianca and Wesley’s casual arrangement becomes something deeper against their best efforts.  Wesley listens to Bianca when she worries about her parents’ rocky marriage and her father’s drinking.  He’s her escape from the real world.  Bianca makes Wesley feel like more than just a rich playboy.  There are plenty of “awww” moments and some surprisingly sexy scenes for a young adult book.

On the one hand, I loved that The D.U.F.F. talked about sex in a positive way.  There’s some slut shaming early on, which made me cringe, but by the end, Bianca begins to recognize that the people called “sluts” are just people with their own kind of escape, no better or worse than anyone.  I also loved Wesley because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t swoon over the reformed bad boy cliche?  Their relationship was adorably love-hate.

I also loved Keplinger’s style.  I know some reviewers have called it cynical and inaccessible.  Maybe I’m just too much like Bianca to feel that way.  I loved her cynicism and snark.  She’s a pragmatist who wants love but fears it, who idealizes what she can’t have and discounts what she does have.  Keplinger captures the high-brow sarcasm of teenage-hood with a delightful authenticity.  She could have been plagiarizing my teenage brain.

On the other hand, I had some qualms with parts of it.  First off, Wesley is the one that calls Bianca a DUFF.  This word eats away at her self-esteem and haunts her through the book, yet he never fully apologizes or explains himself and she pretty much writes it off.  Not cool.  Second, Bianca really ditches her friends, which annoys me.  However, she does get some backlash from said friends for this, so I’m glad that it’s at least addressed as a negative.  But there’s the lingering impression that all you need to fix your life is a boy.  Which…I mean…come on.  Psh.

All in all, The D.U.F.F. is  a fun read.  In the vein of beloved 90s rom-coms like She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You, it’s a hate-to-love romance with guilty pleasure swoons and plenty of snark.  It takes a raw look at the insecurities of teenage girls in a way that I think will resonate with many readers who had or are having those same thoughts.  Despite some rom-com trope-takeover, it’s an enjoyable read.  I only wish that the movie didn’t completely destroy the plot.

Skulls 5

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About C.J.

I’m a font of useless knowledge and an endless source of sarcasm. Oh, and I guess I read, too.

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32 thoughts on “Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

  1. Hi! I fell like this book is perfect for the summer and I’ve been looking for light books to read because I don’t feel like reading complicated book right now so probably I’ll be picking it up soon. Thank you for the review.

    I love your blog! xx

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  2. Wait, so you mean this book is a movie or it’s coming out? Whhhattttt? That’s coolio if so. I’m glad you liked this one and that you were able to connect with the MC so much. She does sound like some awesome-sauce.:)

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    1. So I think the movie has come out already. Warning, though, they totally changed the plot for the movie and now there’s this mean girl character, etc. Bianca is snarkily delightful!

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  3. I completely agree, C.J.! This book was a stress-buster for me and really helped me laugh after the dreadfully melancholy drama I had read earlier. I did dislike Bianca for how she treated her friends, Jessica in particular, but well, we can’t always have what we want, i guess. And yes, Wesley Rush is definitely swoon worthy :) Great review! Couldn’t agree with you more.

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  4. Agreed – I thought it was a fun and entertaining read, and loved the sex-positive attitude of the book, but it was not without its flaws. I haven’t watched the movie though – I heard they changed quite a lot about it, and tamed it down as well.

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  5. I loved the message behind this book! Plus, I loved Bianca’s cynical view on things. Really enjoyed this book! And you nailed it with the 90s rom-com bit

    I knew the movie was going to be nothing like the book so knowing that when I went to watch it really helped me enjoy the movie–though I wish it had been better :(

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  6. I’ve had this one on my shelf for so long now. I think I’m going to try to get to it before summer’s over, especially because my sister bought the movie, and I want to watch it.

    I’m not expecting it to be the greatest book, but I’m looking for something with a little bit of drama. :)

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    1. You probably don’t have to rush to it before you watch the movie, since they basically rewrote it, but it IS worth a read. I think you have the right expectations.

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  7. I really loved this book. I agree how Kody but’s things in a positive way and I’ve found that with a lot of her books are like that but in a different way, especially with The DUFF’s companion novel Lying Out Loud, I would really recommend that! Great review. :)

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  8. I am so glad that you enjoyed The DUFF, CJ. This is one of my all time favourite reads, as I adored it’s take on insecurity, the romance between Bianca and Wesley, the complicated family relationships and the cynical MC. It was all perfect!
    Great review!:)

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    1. I really hope that people who see the movie decide to read the book. I think it has some great things to say about feeling pretty (or not) in high school.
      Thanks!

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  9. I didn’t like this book very much, and completely agree with the negative points you brought out. XD I guess they just got to me too much. Great review though! You’ve pointed out some things I never really thought of.

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  10. I rated this as a two. The ONLY good thing I could find was the sex positive message. But there was so much that was wrong with the book. Bianca NEVER apologized for calling her best friend a bitch and a snob, and I was OVER IT at that point.

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  11. I’ve heard and seen this book around for a few months in the blogging realm, but I feel like you made me want to pick it up. While I don’t like to think that Bianca and Wesley never really felt the consequences of their actions, what you call a “candy read” might be something to kick me back into reading gear.

    I also really love the term “candy read” I won’t be surprised if I use it some time soon lol!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it! Whether they really realize the consequences is sort of up to you. Personally, I didn’t see a lot of contrition. But maybe you’ll see it differently.

      Huzzah, I’m a trend-setter! :D

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  12. I loved the humorous movie adaptation of the book, but the book itself . . . well . . . I picked it up and put it down about a chapter in. However, after reading your review, I’m having second thoughts. I think I’ll give it a second go. Thanks for the great review. :)

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