The Duff is Kody Keplinger’s debut novel, written at the age of seventeen, that was published in the US in late 2010 and is just being published here in the UK by the lovely Hodder Children’s Books. As soon as I saw the summary, I knew I had to read it. The Duff- Designated Ugly Fat Friend- tells the story of Bianca a seventeen year old who is told by local man-slut Wes that well, she’s the Duff of her group and sparks fly. As her home life begins to unravel though, she finds out Wes isn’t a bad listener at all and is someone with a life just as challenging as hers.
As someone who used to feel a lot like the Duff as a teenager, this book was a really interesting read. It was honest, painful and also very funny and heartfelt. Everyone feels like the ugly one sometimes and this book proves it in an unpatronising manner teens (and all readers) will respect. In some hands this novel could turn into an after school special, but Keplinger manages to sway her writing away from this.
This book definitely plays with the fine line between love (‘like’) and hate as Bianca uses Wes as an escape from her own problems. Bianca was a really interesting character for me as she tended to bottle up her feelings and only really exposed them through her promiscuity.
I both loved and hated Wes. I thought he was a huge jerk for calling Bianca the Duff and even using that concept, however as the novel carried on I found myself, like Bianca, uncovering more of his character and by the end thought the two would be a good couple. One of my favourite scenes was- without spoiling it- a confrontation between Bianca, her father and Wes. The emotions were incredibly raw in that scene and Keplinger really made me care about the characters.
My only real criticism is that it uses a lot of slang, which at times, wore on me a bit. I think this may be because of Keplinger’s desire to make it authentic for teenagers and it is, in all honesty, the way a lot of teenagers do speak so I can understand it, but at times for me personally it was a little excessive. Plus I hate it when people say OMG so this is more my personal preference.
This is an accomplished debut that left me very interested to see where Keplinger next takes her writing. I received my copy for free from Hodder Children’s Books and am so grateful I got to read it. As ever my review is not affected by how I obtained the book. The Duff is released on April 5th 2012 in the UK.