Up until now, most of my book reviews have been quite easy for me to write. But today, I found myself starting and stopping ,deleting, reinserting. But like all other instances in my life where the writing has not come to me easily, I’ve tried to figure out WhereTF the writer’s block is coming from. So I set all the books I’ve reviewed recently in front of me, and then it hit me: aside from WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON (which wasn’t exactly easy to review either), I’ve pretty much stuck to reading and reviewing YA paranormals and urban fantasy. It makes sense, of course—that’s what I write. But it shouldn’t make reviewing THE DUFF so difficult, should it?
The only answer I can come up with is that, as easy as this book was to read, it was also a little painful—and thus, perhaps, writing the review of it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. But I think if you read my review—as well as THE DUFF—you’ll understand why I HAD to review it.
As always, be sure to stop by and visit the other Bookanistas reviewing books today:
THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Book Jacket summary (abridged): 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…
But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.
Until all goes horribly awry. It turns out that 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.
The first thing that will jump out at you with this book is the voice.
Wait. I take that back. The first thing is the cover…the HUGE label splashed across the length of a girl’s face: The DUFF…then the eye naturally gravitates to the close-up of a young girl with blue eye shadow, a bubble on the verge of popping over her mouth, and a freckled cheek…and then in smaller print: Designated Ugly Fat Friend. There it is for you, reader—the visceral nature of this book, illustrated for you on the cover. It is the vivid, sarcastic, cynical, witty voice of Bianca Piper portrayed as cover art. I look at this cover, and I think, Bite me. This cover is Bianca.
So, yeah, I guess the first thing that jumps out for you really is the voice. And damn, it’s loud. Now, I don’t mean that Bianca is herself a “loud” person. I mean her voice—and her story—is one you just can’t turn away from. Bianca’s story is genuine and sometimes funny and often heartbreaking. She is a girl who feels inadequate, but not painfully so until she is referred to as the designated ugly fat friend (DUFF), the friend that is pulled in to make the rest of the group look “better.” And suddenly, she’s forced to reevaluate everything about herself.
It’s an ugly term, isn’t it? The duff? And there were definitely times I cringed reading this. I hurt for Bianca. So many, if not all of us have felt just like this in our lives. Excuse me: feel just like this sometimes—paralyzed by self-doubt. Bianca embodies the very essence of teenage insecurity. It can be a little uncomfortable to see some of your own demons in a fictional character.
Yet, THE DUFF is not strictly about pain and loss and insecurity. In a paradoxical, but enlightening way, Keplinger weaves (sexual) empowerment and often humor with teen angst. Sex, the very thing that makes Bianca feel in control of her body and life, which is spiraling into the toilet day by day, also makes her feel ashamed and completely out of control emotionally. In the same breath that Wesley calls her a duff, he’s taking Bianca to bed. While we see her life falling apart, we also see her falling in love. THE DUFF is full of these contradictions—which are all the more remarkable because they are so. very. real. Seriously, what is adolescence but a giant contradiction full of mixed emotions anyway? Reading THE DUFF is a bit like diving into teenagedom. Yeah, it sort of forced me to relive some of my own fears and insecurities which dominated so much of my life growing up and still creep in on a regular basis. But it’s okay—it’s cathartic. Still. Don’t assume that catharsis is all there is in this book. THE DUFF is also funny and heartwarming. And most fun of all? It’s first-date, first-kiss, first-tingle-in-that-pit-of-your-belly exciting, too. I’ll read just about any book that can make me feel that.
You can read it, too. For one thing, you can enter my 7 ARC CONTEST and win an ARC of THE DUFF (or a signed ARC of MATCHED, or an ARC of TORMENT, FIRELIGHT, HALO, PARANORMALCY, or PERSONAL DEMONS). Or you can wait until September when THE DUFF will be released. Either way, I think you should consider getting your hands on this book.
P.S. THE DUFF is recommended for ages 15 and up.
Be sure to check out WriteOnCon, the free online writer’s conference going on still! There’s some magic going on over there.