Thursday, January 20, 2011

The DUFF review

The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
by Kody Keplinger
September 2010

Kiplinger makes a tremendous debut with this smartly written, fast-paced, realistic fiction novel about a girl with self-esteem issues. I have to admit, I was eager to pick up this book as soon as I heard about it. And, I may as well say it now, I find it difficult to talk about this book without discussing some major plot points, especially towards the end. So, consider yourselves warned - spoilers ahead! 

Seventeen year old Bianca Piper is friends with some of the prettiest girls in school, and she knows she doesn't measure up, looks-wise to her two best friends. When high school bad boy Wesley Rush saddles her with the unfortunate nickname, "DUFF" an acronym for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" (implying that her friends only hang out with her because she makes them look good in comparison) that is really the last straw.

Despite all of the arguments and insults batted back and forth between each other, Bianca and Wesley have a sexual tension that fairly crackles off the page, and Bianca impulsively decides to enter into a secret "friends with benefits" arrangement with him. As Bianca's homelife begins to unravel - her always absent mother finally decides to file for divorce, driving her father to a complete meltdown and drinking binge - she begins to rely on these "stress-relief" sessions with her frenemy Wesley more and more.

Bianca's maze of feelings are intense. She's addicted to the hot chemistry that she and Wesley share, but she's battling pent-up rage from Wesley's constant casually hurtful comments, and as is typical in these kinds of "no-strings attached" situations, she starts to develop stronger feelings for Wesley. She is mortified that even though he seems happy enough to share her bed on those occasions they can slip away from their parents, she doesn't think he'd ever openly date her.

While I don't want to spoil the ending of the book, what I found fascinating was Wesley's reaction to all of this. Gradually, he finds himself really falling for Bianca. The fact that it's so easy for them to hook up, and yet, she remains so emotionally distant, captivates him and he finds himself challenged to get Bianca to truly open up. This is a compelling and very honest story about high school relationships. The mature themes and frank sexual situations make this appropriate for older teen readers.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


  1. I really enjoyed this book! Even though Wesley was a complete a-hole in the beginning, he really grew on me and I loved the progression we got to see from both of them. I also appreciated how the author didn't shy away from avoiding sexual content, but instead was honest with everything even though it wasn't always pretty:) Nice review Madigan, glad you liked this one as well!

  2. I liked that the sexual relationship was so honest, and didn't resort to over-the-top romance novel language, either. (If you know what I mean.)

  3. Hi Madigan,
    Stopping by since you were kind enough to stop by chez moi ;-) I think this is an interesting critique, especially as teen novels are delving further and further into the territory of sexual relationships, and it's interesting to see that they're not shying away from it. Do you think it's because the readers want more honesty or because the writers just want to convey more realism?


  4. The way I see it, writers write about what interests and inspires them. Then, the market either rewards them, or not.

    Kody Kiplinger has done a lot of interviews explaining that she was inspired because as soon as she heard the term, she felt like "The DUFF" herself plenty of times.

    This is EXACTLY the kind of book that will frequently stir up a storm of book challenges and censorship, as a lot of adults think that teens should be reading "safe" "sanitized" books. I know plenty of libraries have this cataloged as an "adult" title.

  5. The book has a different plot from romantic novels.



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