Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Duff (Kody Keplinger)

Maybe it's not good to start the new year -- and a leap year at that -- by declaring that I can totally relate to the Designated Ugly Fat Friend (DUFF). That's who I am and I don't think there's any harm in admitting that. In Kody Keplinger's The Duff, Bianca Piper starts a hate-love relationship with Wesley when he acquaints her with the term. Not exactly the most promising start to any kind of relationship with each other, as they are about to find out. (Spoilers ahead, because it is hard to review this book without dishing out some of the details.)

There were a lot of elements about The Duff that surprised me. Of course this is not the first YA book to mention sex, but the way Bianca and Wesley dive into their enemies-with-benefits arrangement shows a view of contemporary teenage relationships that is markedly different from the ones I've previously read about. I couldn't understand how Bianca would feel that engaging in an intimate relationship with someone she says she hates is going to make her feel better. Am I supposed to give her a pass because she's a teenager? I'm no angel but to be honest, reading about all the casual sex this book made me feel like the world's biggest prude. I have to give it Bianca though. She knows she's making a mistake but still she is all gung-ho about it, damn the consequences.

Still I could see Bianca struggle with her need to find an anchor in her life, even if that anchor was sex. Some people would turn to friends, others to alcohol or school activities. Yet Bianca chose this complicated relationship with Wesley to escape her problems with her alcoholic father. The story really has more to do with that and little to do with her struggles about being labeled fat or ugly, so if you're looking for those triumphant Cinderella rom-coms, look elsewhere. You won't find it here. Thankfully, it takes her loyal and caring group of friends and their own insecurities to make Bianca see that every girl can feel down about herself once in a while and this doesn't mean the end of the world.

Bianca is sharp and cynical, and in parts, she is also rather selfish and facetious. Given everything, she does feel realistically drawn. But the subject matter and approach used in The Duff can be very polarizing and despite my high hopes for it, I realize it isn't completely for me. I'm just too old for this.


Chachic said...

I'm sorry this one didn't work for you, Chris! I saw it in several best of 2011 lists so I'm really curious about it. Would it be okay if I borrow your copy the next time we meet? :)

dementedchris said...

Sure, Chachic! :D I think I can appreciate the book for what it tries to do but in the end, it's just not for me. But I recommended it to a friend who read it as soon as I was done, and she liked it! Haha!

Danmark said...

I would like to say that this was a fantastic book. It honestly blew me away - I came into it hoping that it wouldn't just be one of those "Woe is me, I'm fat and unhappy" books that seem to be ubiquitous these days. It most definitely was not. The book was funny, highly relatable, and it hit home far too many times to be completely comfortable. I am in my early 20s, so it wasn't too long ago that I was a teenage girl who felt exactly the same way that Bianca does in this book. It is very realistic and the story is very well-told.

dementedchris said...

It's great to read your comment, Danmark! I really appreciate coming across a different point of view. Bianca definitely stood out from the stream of YA protagonists. I may not have enjoyed every aspect of the book but I haven't forgotten Bianca at all.