The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)
by Kody Keplinger
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.