Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger


Cross posted from Incandescent

Out one night in support of her two best friends, Bianca is doing what she always does when they drag her to The Nest: sit at the bar sipping Cherry Coke and talking to the bartender Joe. She's bored and restless, but resigned. At least until Wesley Rush decides to occupy the bar stool next to hers. He's arrogant, rude, charming, promiscuous, and unbelievably attractive, so Bianca doesn't bother playing his game. Which is a good thing because he pretty quickly admits he's only talking to her because she's the DUFF--the designated ugly fat friend--and spending time with the DUFF is a surefire way to hookup with the hotter friends. And he has his eye on hers. Disgusted, Bianca douses Wesley in the remainder of her Coke, grabs her friends, and storms out, convinced she won't be hearing from Wesley again anytime soon. His insult, though, plays incessantly in her mind. Add that to finding out her crush has a girlfriend at another school, her mom--who has been on a book tour for two months--still isn't coming home, and crashing in Wesley in the hall during school and Bianca is teetering on the edge of a truly horrendous day. Wesley sitting next to her at The Nest that night is just icing on the cake. Already on edge, she loses control when he notices her foul mood and actually asks her what's wrong. Without thinking, she grabs him and pulls him into a kiss that nearly devours them both. The rush is like a drug that makes her forget all of her stupid problems. At least, until she feels Wesley's hand traveling up her chest and into forbidden territory. Then she pushes him away, slaps him across the face, and once again storms off.

Life seems to be plotting against her, though. Problems that seemed manageable grow ever worse and then expand into unforeseen territory including the return of her one ex-boyfriend and the guy she gave her virginity too years ago and the arrival of divorce papers from her mother. Bianca doesn't know how to handle it, but she remembers how easy it was to forget everything when Wesley's mouth was on hers, so she loses herself in him again, this time in an enemies-with-benefits relationship that consumes them both. As things get worse at home, she finds herself spending more and more time with Wesley (and not just in bed) and less time with her friends, especially Casey who asks too many questions. But Wesley is safe because he doesn't really care. Wesley is safe because she's just another notch on his headboard. Wesley is safe because she's the DUFF--as he constantly reminds her--and there's no way the infamous Wesley Rush would ever fall for the DUFF. But there is the danger that the DUFF may fall for Wesley Rush. Eventually, Bianca has to face facts and try to fix the mess her life has become. Will she be able to figure out what to do about Wesley, how to fix her strained relationship with her best friends, and save her father from going off the deep end before everything is shattered beyond repair?

Before I go into my take on this story, a warning. This book is definitely rated PG-13. Possibly R depending on your stance on things. There's a lot of sex (not graphically described, but it's there), swearing, and a few other things some parents would probably find objectionable. On the other hand, it's also a pretty honest look at teen life today. Honest, accurate, and eye-opening. The point of the story isn't the sex, the crush, the parents, or even the friends. It's about Bianca's perception of herself, especially after hearing herself described as the DUFF by one of the hottest guys in her school. She can instantly see that he's right and each time he calls her Duffy (which is often as their relationship continues), it's like a knife wound in her already shaky self-confidence. It has become habit for Bianca to bottle everything up to the point where her friends know to translate the phrase "I'm fine" as "Shut up because I'm not going to tell you what's wrong." Everything in her life feels like it's out of her control but she doesn't want to add her stress to everyone else's. That is something I can completely understand as it's a habit I have as well. One that's hard to break. While some people are going to dislike the casual references to sex and the way Bianca flings herself into a relationship with a guy she knows is a "man-whore," I think the whole story is crafted in a way that shows you how little you see of the people around you and how you can't judge them just because you know one thing about them. It teaches a lesson that can be applied universally, to boys, girls, teens, or adults. I was impressed by Kody's characters and the way they developed through the story and it really felt like a peek into the life of some group of highschool kids somewhere in the country. Anywhere, really. So, despite the maturity warning I attach to the book, it's still one I highly recommend. I really enjoyed reading it.

Sera's Rating: 8/10

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