Title: The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
Author: Kody Keplinger
Date Read: July 22-August 11th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 4th, 2016
Picture VIA Goodreads.
Introduction: I decided to read this book because I wanted to watch the movie, despite hearing that the movie is nothing like the book. I had seen this book on the shelves in my local bookstore for quite some time, but I just never felt the need to pick it up until the movie appeared. My friends who read the book gave mediocre reviews of the novel which made me unsure of whether it was worth it – but it was! I enjoyed this novel!
Quick Summary: Bianca Piper is your average, everyday high school student. She deals with trying to get into college/university, family issues and friendships. When she has to work with the hot Wesley Rush (who also happens to get around the school) he mentions that she is a “Duff” – a designated, ugly, fat friend. Every group has one, and Bianca is apparently it! With the mixture of her home troubles and high school life, her and Wesley begin to get closer together…and this novel is their story.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT! You’ve been warned.
Evaluations: I enjoyed this book. It definitely wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but it was a nice YA novel to just shut my brain off to. It has it’s cliches, but it still is worthy in my mind. It wasn’t a slow read either, the plot continued to move which made it enjoyable. I don’t understand the high reviews the book received, since it wasn’t a top tier, new idea kind of YA book. The appeal of the book for the YA audience is great – I think people who enjoy the Young Adult book scene will enjoy this book, although it wouldn’t be the first YA book I suggest people to read. It’s more of a soap opera, low key Pretty Little Liars kind of book.
Plot: The plot was pretty average – “Duff” friend gets hot guy. She deals with familial/romantic/friend issues and tells the guy, the guy feels for her and sleeps with her a lot, and eventually they get together. It is definitely a more “realistic” kind of YA novel, and I appreciate that, but there wasn’t anything super, crazy new that made me think “Yes, this is the YA novel that ups my standards!”. The plot did work well within itself though – Kody did not veer off in random directions, she continued chugging along the right way and kept her book going.
Characters: Bianca’s a strong character, much like all the other YA heroines these days. She did have her flaws – there was a boy’s over health matter that left me feeling a little stingy – but for a YA audience she definitely fit in. Headstrong female with some flaws to try to relate to the general audience. Pre-teens would definitely enjoy this character, but as an adult she wasn’t totally fleshed out as much as I would have liked her to be. She is very obsessed with herself (but what YA character isn’t, let’s be honest), but in high school the world tends to revolve around high schoolers, not the bigger picture. If she were a college student or an adult, this type of character would be a much bigger issue.
Bianca also ditched her friends as soon as she dated Wesley…
Speaking of Wesley… He was the ‘perfect’ boy character, in my opinion. He was not very realistic – chasing after Bianca, and only staying with Bianca, and being generally the perfect, opposite character for her. While it’s nice in fiction, I didn’t see it realistic. I could not see any boys I know acting in his way.
Themes/Creativity: Wuthering Heights is mentioned a lot and the boys are compared to Linton and Heathcliffe – This was okay, and I thought it was nice to mention a book like this so maybe more teenagers will read it, but it definitely did not fit in the story. A teenager wrote this, and I’m proud of her writing skill and getting published, but it felt out of place. Creativity? A+! Theme wise? Meh.
Feminism was clearly attempted, and I’m proud of that too! But…there’s a but…it also felt very forced. Everyone loves the hot guys but not the main character? While everyone wants to think they are like that in high school, it’s far out of reach. Not entirely realistic, and it kind of bugged me. It was your typical YA stereotype, and not a more realistic or unique take on it. And saying men can’t be a feminist? *sigh*
Unique topic? Yes! The Duff is definitely a term I’ve heard before, and I’ve never seen it written the way it was in this novel. I appreciate that this was brought into terms, since girls (and everyone else for that matter! but in this book girls) feel like the Duff in their group of friends.
YA uniqueness? Meh. Not totally uniquely written as a YA novel. It was cookie cutter, had stereotypes, and was overall your typical YA. It didn’t stand out for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be unique to a new YA reader. I’ve read YA for over 10 years, so at this point it doesn’t seem all that new to me.
Strengths: Bringing up important topics – while they weren’t all brought up in the best possible way (in my opinion) they were still discussed. Feminism, Wuthering Heights, feeling like “the Duff” – all of this is brought up and is discussed. It gets people thinking and starts a conversation, which is what we really need in today’s society.
Weaknesses: Bianca. Yes, the main character is perhaps the biggest weakness – her ideas on feminism, her idea that sleeping with people means you are a slut, ditching her friends for Wesley, the world revolving around her…the list goes on. She was definitely a strong main character and Kody tried, but I found her to be the worst part of the novel.
I really enjoyed this novel, but it had it’s weaknesses. Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I suggest it to others? Yes. It might not be the first book I suggest to people, but it’s recommendation worthy. Kody was a teenager when she wrote this, and if other teenagers could read this book and realize they could write a great novel as well, then recommending it is my duty!
Recommendations: I can’t wait for Kody’s next book! As she matures out of her teenage years, I’m sure her characters will grow as well! Life experiences can often help writers mature their characters! I would personally love for Kody to flesh out her characters more and explore new opportunities and situations in her books. This book was amazing for being written by a teenager!!