Being a teenager sucks. There are no two ways around it. Regardless of your standing in the hierarchy or caste system (that seems to be a standard feature in high school) there will always be a point in which you wish you could just disappear. As a matter of fact, the higher you are only tends to lead to a more dramatic fall. Your flaws are constantly exposed, your weakness, your pitfalls, and regardless of your “circle” these are the things that will continually weigh on you. I was not an outcast in high school until I made myself one. I made friends easily, and chose the group of people I associated with… they did not choose me, but despite my popularity or eventual lack there of, 3 things always dominated my ever running mind (as it does with most adolescent girls.)
1. I was not pretty enough
2. I was not smart enough
3. No one would ever understand me
In “The Duff” (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) a book I was sure to be at least mildly amusing (if for no other reason than its atrocious title,) all of these issues were addressed, and if I may say so… in a very obscure way.
Bianca is not like most high school girls, she is cynical, overly sarcastic, mildly neurotic, and has a very clear definition of what “love” is. Compared to her circle of model-prototype giggly girlfriends, she is nothing more than average. Wesley on the other hand is a Nordic god… unfortunately he knows it, and with that knowledge comes arrogance, condescension, and a whole bag full of man-whorish/douche-bag qualities, but none of these are a problem for Bianca until his majesty crowns her queen of the duffs and turns B’s once self-satisfied world upside down. To make matters worse, B’s home life just got complicated, and in a effort to avoid acceptance she does the only thing she can think of… kisses Wesley. What happens when the boy you hate turns out to be the only one you can talk to? What happens when your life falls off the wagon? And who is really the Duff?
This novel is slated as YA, and while yes, the issues are contrived in a high school setting, I feel the need to offer a parental warning. This book is highly sexual, and deeply emotional so if you are apprehensive about your 15-16 year old jumping onto a rollercoaster of misguided intentions, then you might want to steer them clear of this novel… though very educational it is filled with vulgar language and promiscuity.
Ok… now that my parental duties are over let me get to the gritty. Kody Keplinger pulled off a small miracle in her debut novel… she was able to teach a cornucopia of lessons (body image, abandonment, acceptance, denial etc…) while at the same time maintaining the difficult web of a teenage love story. Bianca and Wesley were so well written that at times you could predict their responses to each other, and though both were flawed/raw individuals, Keplinger was successful in keeping them real and relatable (uh-hum… moments of purity) The plot was perfectly paced, the story as a whole (though sometimes making me cringe because of the characters ages) was original and (at times) motivational. However… the eventuality of the story is not what “got me”, the way in which Keplinger chose to tie it up is what had me nodding my head in overwhelming approval. Taking (I’m assuming) lesson’s from the classics (Austen, Bronte…) she chose WORDS not action as a means to an end.
Hype affirmed, “The Duff” is a must read for those intrigued by emotional confliction (aka… I love you, I hate you) As a matter of fact, I even re-read the last 20% this morning because I liked the way I felt when it was all said and done.
So what does that mean for you? Get it, Live it, Love it… pass it on.
Happy Reading my fellow Duff’s and remember: The size of your club does not make you better than me, it just means I have to reach further to hit what I’m aiming at.