Little Brown, 2010
Bianca was sitting at a bar when Wesley Rush comes over to tell her that she is the ‘DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her friend group. She rightly throws her cherry coke in his face. But things aren’t great for Bianca at home and she needs a distraction. Unfortunately, that distraction becomes Wesley when she ends up kissing him and to make matters worse she likes it. Wesley and Bianca end up in a whirlwind secret friends (more like enemies)-with-benefits relationship. To make things even harder, Bianca realizes Wesley isn’t as bad as she made him out to be, and she finds herself falling for the one guy she swore she hated.
Review: I picked The Duff up because I loved the idea of it. What girl hasn’t felt like the ‘Duff’ of her friend group at one point or another? Writing an entire novel about a girl who thought she was the Duff was genius. It delved into how many (I would think. At the very least, I think like this.) girls think about themselves in relation to their friends. Self-esteem and body-image are issues that many young adult and regular adults struggle with. Bianca hit home how all consuming negative-body image and self talk can be. Keplinger did a wonderful job really developing Bianca as a character. She was believable, vulnerable, smart, stubborn, cynical, tough, and resourceful. In the end, she was real.
Bianca’s relationship with Wesley was the centerpiece to the book and I thought it was incredibly well done. While at first, sex was the main point to the relationship, it developed into something more. I think this relationship alone shows that Keplinger really knows how it is to be a teenager. The complexities that are rooted in both Bianca’s and Wesley’s feelings about sex in general, casual sex and sex in relationships are something teens can relate to, even if they don’t share their views. My only problem with this novel is how everything ties together at the end so nicely. The family problems Bianca deals with seem like the should take longer to resolve, but I liked that Keplinger took them on. They gave Bianca depth and reasons for her behavior.
Keplinger has two other books out, The Shut Out and Midsummer’s Nightmare, both of which I am looking forward to reading.
Side-note: Kody Keplinger wrote a guest blog post on the Disability in Kid Lit Blog which you should check out here.