Penny's Reviews > The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
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Sep 20, 2010

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bookshelves: check-your-brain-at-the-door, chick-lit, guilty-pleasures, reviewed-books, ya-fiction
Read on September 19, 2010 , read count: 1

Alright ladies, I've got a question: say you're at a scummy dance club that your friends all but forced you to go to. You're not having a good time. In fact, you're pretty miserable and can't wait to go home. As you sit at the bar nursing your Cherry Coke a good-looking guy comes and sits next to you.

That would be nice, right? A good way to pass the time until your friends decide they've had all the man-handling they can take (for the night).

Well, say the hot guy in question turns out to be the village bicycle--"everybody has had ride!"--the infamous man-whore of your school/town. You're disgusted this vile creature is in your immediate vicinity, don't want him around. So you tell him to go away. And he doesn't. He tells you he needs your help because, in his words:

"You, darling, are the Duff. Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend. No offense, but that would be you. Hey, don't get defensive. It's not like you're an ogre or anything, but in comparison..."

He proceeds to tell you that he's talking to you, the Duff, so your über hot friends will think he's a nice, sensitive guy. He's hoping this will up his chances of getting into their pants.

How would you react to that?

If this happened to the person I am today I'd totally laugh in the a-hole's face and walk away. Because, really, I couldn't care less what a (most likely) STD-infected man-whore thinks of me, regardless of how ridiculously hot he might be. I'm an adult. I stopped caring what other people think of me. All that matters is what I think. (for the record: I'm happy with the way I look). Besides, I'm married.

But if that happened to me fourteen years ago... well, let's just say it would have destroyed--I'm talking completely pulverized--what little self-esteem I had at the time. Back then I was--comparatively speaking--the Duff among my circle of friends. I didn't get attention from guys when I was with my unintentionally hot friends (seriously. And they didn't even know it. They were all long-limbed, willowy, girl-next-door beautiful. I was the average height ethnic girl).

What's my point? My point is I can see why teenage girls would want to read this book. Like I said, I've been there. I get it.

BUT what I fail to appreciate is the way this story plays out.

Bianca Piper, the Duff in question, is a seventeen-year-old girl finishing up her senior year in high school. She has two good friends who really care about her. Parents who, dysfunctional marriage aside, love her. She's intelligent, witty, and successful--for the most part.

Bianca only real major downfall is she is much too cynical, especially when it comes to love, though I can't say I blame her. Bianca was only fourteen when she had her heart stomped on by an upperclassman.

It is her wit and cynicism that comes to her aid the night she's told that she is The Duff. She insults the man-whore, Wesley Rush, and throws her Cherry Coke in his face--**plus twenty points for Bianca, am I right?**--and walks away in a dignity-at-all-times manner.

Unfortunately Bianca doesn't walk away completely unscathed. She is unable to get over the fact that she's the so-called "ugly fat girl" among her friends. It starts eating away at her self-esteem.

And to make matters much worse, her home life begins to crumble.

Instead of dealing with her problems, Bianca masters the art of escapism. Totally understandable. I've been there. But instead of losing herself in a good book, movie or yogalates, she loses herself in the bed of...(wait for it)...Wesley Rush, resident man-whore. The guy she hates with the intensity of a thousand suns.

Oh, it gets better. He lovingly nicknames her 'Duffy'. That's right, as in The Duff. And Bianca has a bevy of insults to hurl at Wesley whenever it pleases her. Neither of them them pretend their relationship is based on anything other then sex. Call it what you will: escapism sex, hate sex, cheap sex, a hook-up, sex buddies, booty call...I could go on. Regardless of the label, this is where the author starts to lose me.

I hope I'm not coming across as 'holier then thou', because, seriously it's not like I was an angel when I was a teenager. I had a wild streak back then, I made mistakes. Lots of them. It's just my mistakes involved less sex. Okay, sex was never involved. Neither was nudity. But I kissed (read: had total make-out sessions with) a bunch of guys. Sometimes with the sole intention of getting my mind off my problems. So really, I understand Bianca's motives. I even understand how in a twisted way she felt pretty, more desirable afterward.

That being said, I can't understand why/how she's able to repeatedly hop into bed with a guy who makes her skin crawl. She's with him as much as five times a week. Not that I'm a sexpert (see what I did there? I combined sex and expert. Hee.) but I'd wager to say that's a lot of sex for a couple of teenagers who are using each other. Especially considering how cheap and dirty Bianca claims to feel afterward.

While reading this novel I was all, "Stop it. Stop having sex with the guy you hate. Just STOP! Go talk to your friends or a counselor. You need help." But clearly, she didn't stop. It wouldn't have been so bad had she felt more guilty or ashamed afterward. And I could understand her need had it been described as some sort of an addiction. Or perhaps the author could have described Bianca's home life much worse, making her incessant need to escape that much more plausible.

But yeah, my point is: I just couldn't relate. Not entirely. And so this story fell apart for me. Okay, that's a lie. It didn't fall apart--the story was still in one piece when I finished this book, but just barely.

The only real redeeming thing about The Duff is the conclusion Bianca comes to near the end of the novel, about what it means to be a Duff. And she realizes how stupid she and Wesley were by having so much sex, regardless of how much protection they used (for the record: condoms and the pill).

And though it pains me to do so, I'll admit that I'm sappy enough to like how this book ended. (Kill me.) It wraps up so neatly with a giant bow on top, Pretty Woman style. Three stars but just barely, and if I were I being totally fair I'd have to give it just two stars (waaaaaaaaay too much swearing going on in this book. It's completely out of control). But I liked this book, despite all it's faults, so yeah, three stars.
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Reading Progress

09/17 page 2
1.0% "I went to B&N last night and I couldn't resist purchasing this. Confession: In high school, among my circle of friends, I was the DUFF--my friends were gorgeous and really tall." 1 comment
09/20 page 288
100.0% "I read this in one sitting. Working on the review now."
04/12 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Annalisa (last edited Sep 15, 2010 07:20PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Annalisa Now your review I HAVE to read :).


Penny Ooooh, now I'm super intrigued. *dashes off to see if it's available on audible*




It is! And I have one more credit left. Hmmmm... What to do... I'm going to have to think about it. I mean, the book is probably cheaper then my audible credit is worth. I'll have to run to Borders this week.


message 3: by Kelli (new) - added it

Kelli Lee Good review. I must say I'm intrigued after the review, more so than when I noticed you were first reading it. I'll have to see if it's at the library.


message 4: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana Great review, Penny. I agree with you (even though I haven't read the book), that I can't really imagine how sex with someone who makes your skin crawl can be escapist. You escape you problems by banging someone gross? Oh please...


Amelia, the pragmatic idealist very nice review, Penny! It's not "greater than thou!" It's "I've-got- more-life-lessons-to offer-thou"! I loved the points that you made, though I have no intention of reading this book myself. But I still read your review! I always love to read what you have to say. In my group (or should I say, practically the whole student body), we were called DURVs - "designated uptight religious virgins" (guys included!) that's what our rival schools called us, haha. They'd put "BEAT THE DURVS!" on banners for football games. Good times. But I digress. Awesome review, girl! Keep writing!


message 6: by Jason (new)

Jason McIntyre Very good review! No one slaughter me -- I am the token male commenting on this and do not profess to understand how people (let alone women) think. You make some valid points about Bianca's behaviour here, Penny. It doesn't ring true to me as you describe it. All I can offer is this:

Sometimes people do things that make little sense to anyone.


message 7: by Heather (last edited Sep 20, 2010 03:19PM) (new)

Heather Penny, I enjoyed your review. I agree that it doesn't make much sense for anyone to get it on with someone they hate, but...I can see where it would be escapist. She already knows how he veiws her, she doesn't have to worry about what he will think of her body, won't have any inhibitions, and therefore, she can "let go" if you will. Personally, I can't imagine being with someone who made my skin crawl, but to quote Anthony from Sex and the City when Charolette mentions getting it on with someone ugly, "Dirty s*x is hot".


Annalisa Yeah, that, pretty much. I tried not to put on my high and mighty hat since I kind of was that nerd of angel child that made my mission president dad proud and I never felt like a duff but I can't have been the only self-respecting teen who wouldn't make myself feel better by doing something that made me feel worse, right? But still I can imagine that out there there could be a teenager that would do that. And I liked it (and felt dirty for liking it) because sometimes I like those happy endings for cynics.


message 9: by Miss Clark (new)

Miss Clark It was a good review and one I appreciate!


Penny Kelly wrote: "Good review. I must say I'm intrigued after the review, more so than when I noticed you were first reading it. I'll have to see if it's at the library."

Thanks. I hope you like reading The Duff. It's certainly an interesting experience, in a good way.

Tatiana wrote: "Great review, Penny. I agree with you (even though I haven't read the book), that I can't really imagine how sex with someone who makes your skin crawl can be escapist. You escape you problems by b..."

Thank you Tatiana. I spent way too much time writing it, considering it's only a three star book. And yeah, I'm not sure how having copious amounts of sex will make things all better. But oh well, it makes for an interesting story.

Amelia (Imagination in Focus) wrote: "very nice review, Penny! It's not "greater than thou!" It's "I've-got- more-life-lessons-to offer-thou"! I loved the points that you made, though I have no intention of reading this book myself. Bu..."

Thanks Amelia. I hope this doesn't sound weird but at one point, while I was reading this book, I thought about what you'd think of this book. It contains a lot of sex considering it's YA and all. Although, yeah, most of the sex is just mentioned in passing and there are two or three fade to black scenes. But still, way too much sex. And like Annalisa mentioned in her review of this book, I kept waiting for the consequences to catch up with Bianca, and they never did. She didn't gain a reputation or anything. It wasn't realistic. At the same time I still liked it (and yes, I feel wrong for liking it. Because, seriously, I'd be sad if someday my girls hopped into bed with anyone in order to find escape. I mean, there are better ways to cope with problems, you know what I mean?).

BTW, ten percent of my high school population was LDS (Mormon). We had early morning scripture study at the school, every morning. Everyone pretty much knew who was Mormon. Though I got teased by some of my non-moron peers about my status as a "goody two shoes" virgin, I felt it was all in good fun, never let it get me down. And more often then not classmates told me they respected my decision to not have sex. Some even told me they wished they had, at the very least, waited for the right person to come along. Some told me they were virgins too. That's why I think it's funny sex seems like such a massive deal in YA fiction. That's not to say that teenagers aren't thinking about it, but they aren't sex-crazed maniacs either. Well, at least not all of them are, ya know?

Jason wrote: "Very good review! No one slaughter me -- I am the token male commenting on this and do not profess to understand how people (let alone women) think. You make some valid points about Bianca's behavi..."

What's that supposed to mean?! Kidding. I get what you're saying. I don't understand how men think. So we're even. :)

Heather wrote: "Penny, I enjoyed your review. I agree that it doesn't make much sense for anyone to get it on with someone they hate, but...I can see where it would be escapist. She already knows how he veiws her,..."

Thanks Heather. You make a valid point, about how Bianca is less likely to feel inhibited with Wesley. It makes sense. But still, I can't help but wonder why she never thought about what he was thinking when they were together. I mean, like he said, she wasn't an ogre, but was she the least-fortunate looking girl to ever share his bed? Did he care? Would he have sex with an ogre or did he have his limits? See, those thoughts would go through my head, I think.

Annalisa wrote: "Yeah, that, pretty much. I tried not to put on my high and mighty hat since I kind of was that nerd of angel child that made my mission president dad proud and I never felt like a duff but I can't ..."

I thought Mission President's daughters were supposed to be...um...wayward. Or is that just true about Bishop's daughters? Kidding! Since your dad was a Mission President, where did you grow up? Was it somewhere exciting?

Anyway, I too felt dirty for liking this book. But I couldn't force myself to give it less stars, despite how ridiculous way things wrapped up. I mean it ended all pretty-like with no loose ends, no negative consequences, no hurt feelings. Bianca didn't even catch some STD, let alone have a pregnancy scare. Not that I necessarily wanted her to, but I mean COME ON! Condoms and the the pill aren't always effective. And STDs can still be spread when a condom is being used! Did you know a significant portion of the population have genital warts? Most times men who have it don't even know but can still spread this particular STD even if they're wearing a condom? And sure, adding the STD factor would have made a light read significantly more serious. But I wish there were more YA books that brought this sort of thing to the intended audiences attention.

Okay, I'll stop freaking out. And yes, I still like this book. (I'm such a dork).

Miss Clark wrote: "It was a good review and one I appreciate!"

Thanks!


Annalisa Yes, they are. That's why I have siblings to fulfill the obligatory naughty child :). I grew up in South America, but my dad was Mission President in Dallas.

I was thinking exactly of genital warts too when I read this. I really wish they had thrown in something like that. That would have been a great love story. Man-whore who gave me an STD is the love of my life. It's a story to tell your grandkids :).


Jamie I appreciate your review and I do agree with some of your comments but I disagree on some points.

"That being said, I can't understand why/how she's able to repeatedly hop into bed with a guy who makes her skin crawl. She's with him as much as five times a week. Not that I'm a sexpert (see what I did there? I combined sex and expert. Hee.) but I'd wager to say that's a lot of sex for a couple of teenagers who are using each other. Especially considering how cheap and dirty Bianca claims to feel afterward."

Have you ever watched a soap opera? Characters that hate each other (or start off hating each other) always hook up. It seems to be a common theme. To me, hate often involves passion. So I could totally understand Bianca having sex with Wesley.

Also, a lot of kids today are having sex. That's one thing I liked about the book was how realistic it was in portraying that. And as for the language that is realistic too. I've worked around some teenagers and they do talk like that.

I do agree with you that if I were Bianca I would be concerned with what Wesley was thinking of me. I think I'd have a hard time sleeping with a guy who had called me ugly and fat. Now if it was a guy I hated that still told me I was hot, I could see sleeping with but knowing a guy thought of me as not very attractive would make it hard for me to hook up with him.

It might have been more realistic to have Bianca deal with a pregnancy scare or something but I guess she finally thought about consequences when she talked to Vicki.

So while I did not share your opinions on some points, it was a well thought out review!


Angela Loved your review. And I understood the escapist thing, all though that first kiss . . . wow, that threw me for a loop. He makes her skin crawl and she kisses him? That, I had a hard time believing.

Also, I was kind of sad the main character didn't grow out of her cynicism. Granted, that was part of what made her unique, but all that eye rolling at the end of the book kind of ruined it for me. See, you're nicer than I am. You liked the ending, and I found it strangely unsatisfying even though it was supposed to be happy. The stuff she learned didn't seem that profound. Plus, she continued to hold onto all her cynical ideas about love and relationships even after all that?


message 14: by Toonerdygirls (new)

Toonerdygirls so i just wrote something similar on my blog toonerdygirls.wordpress.com. i was the short ethnic girl and this would have killed my self esteem too. i didn't understand why she made out with him either, and then the sex thing... it kind of threw me off too. i personally felt the story read like fan fiction.


message 15: by Zoë (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zoë I think with Bianca sleeping with Wesley was a power/control thing as well since nearly everything in her life she didn't have control over. But she had control over whether to sleep with Wesley or not and probably made her feel dominant and powerful over that espeacially when it was someone she hated.


message 16: by Toonerdygirls (new)

Toonerdygirls Zoe wrote: "I think with Bianca sleeping with Wesley was a power/control thing as well since nearly everything in her life she didn't have control over. But she had control over whether to sleep with Wesley or..."

I totally see that and agree whole heartedly. I guess I feel that it wasn't organic, or felt that it was a "moment". For me there wasn't any anticipation, it was just kind of was there very suddenly and I felt that the build up and tension could have been expanded on.


message 17: by Zoë (new) - rated it 5 stars

Zoë Toonerdygirls wrote: "Zoe wrote: "I think with Bianca sleeping with Wesley was a power/control thing as well since nearly everything in her life she didn't have control over. But she had control over whether to sleep wi..."

Yeah I see what you mean and it definitely could of been built up more.


Coryna Haha! Your review is awesome!!!


message 19: by Chey (new) - rated it 1 star

Chey Bravo! This is the most accurate review I have read about this book! I'm finishing my senior year in high school as of right now and, even though I wouldn't consider myself the Duff (at least not all the time), I think she kind of went crazy with the whole sex thing. I mean she hated the guy! And, like you said, her problems weren't all that bad! I was under the impression her home life was absolutely horrible and everything was going wrong. Now I understand there was a lot of things that didn't go right but that doesn't mean you should pick out the guy you hate with a passion and would sleep with literally any woman and go sleep with him! Multiple times might I add! That seemed pretty ridiculous. And I feel the same exact way about the cussing. I almost didn't finish it because of it. I don't feel like that was the right choice for her. So I completely agree with you on your review!


Carmen Great review.


Olivia I totally agree about the swearing! Waaaaay too much in this book! Real people don't talk that way!


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