08 July 2015

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Kody Keplinger’s THE DUFF got a lot of publicity the last year when a movie came out based on the book. It didn’t sound like my type of movie, but it was from a popular YA book, and since I’ve been immersing myself in the category it seemed worth reading. I never did see the movie, but I finally got around to reading the book.

DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and that’s what man-whore Wesley Rush calls Bianca at the outset of THE DUFF. It stings, because Bianca realizes it’s true: she’s not as pretty or popular (in her mind, at least) as her best friends Casey and Jessica.

Bianca gets so offended that she throws her Cherry Coke at Wesley and storms off.

Bianca’s home life isn’t great. Her parents are headed toward divorce, and her dad’s a recovering alcoholic. And she has lots of self-esteem issues, just like any teenager. So when she ends up thrust together with Wesley Rush on a class project, she finds a release valve for all her stress.

Yes, that one.

Through a strange conceit, Bianca and Wesley become enemies-with-benefits. 

What really stood out to me about THE DUFF was not its story, which isn’t really that different from a lot of its peers. I mean, everyone in the story except Bianca could see where it was headed, and many of them told her as much, too. What set THE DUFF apart was its characters: somehow, they all come across as charming and lovable, even when they’re really not. And they all grow and learn from each other.

THE DUFF is one of the best examples of supportive female friendships I’ve read in a while. There was jealousy at times, and the girls made mistakes with each other, but they were true friends, supportive and forgiving and truly kind to each other. That’s something I haven’t seen a lot of.

I wasn’t sure going in if THE DUFF was the kind of book I would like, but I ended up enjoying the hell out of it. Part of me wants to see the movie (which stars Mae Whitman [her?], whom I adore), but part of me doesn’t, since apparently it’s very different from the book.

I’ll have to make up my mind at some point. And, just because I am thinking of Mae Whitman...