After seeing that this book was going to become a movie (and that it was only 99p on Kindle) I was super intrigued to see what ‘The Duff’ was about…and what the word even meant.
So, DUFF stands for designated, ugly, fat friend. Even though the main character, Bianca, is none of these things, its a label used to separate her from her friends, who are seen as prettier because they have bigger chests and longer legs. (This book is certainly filled with a lot of stereotypes of what’s beautiful.)
Bianca tries to defy this label and she does this with the help of womaniser Wesley Rush. Urgh. Even the name makes you want to roll your eyes. The basis of their relationship revolves around having sex to distract them from their family problems. (Bianca’s parents are getting a divorce and her dad’s an alcoholic.) Not the kind of relationship to promote. However, it seems they were operating under the rule ‘sex first, love later’, which is what ends up happening.
The relationship dynamic between the couple made me feel uncomfortable. Of course, it’s probably realistic, as ‘romance’ becomes more of something we put in inverted commas rather than a reality. I was able to understand the relationship, but not connect with Bianca because of it. I preferred the romance she shared with Toby Tucker. His name instantly tells you he’s someone that would ask if he could kiss you, and would walk you to your door at the end of a date. Cute.
What I really loved about this book, though, was the way the label ‘Duff’ affected Bianca. I think it really demonstrated how much a word like ‘ugly’ can affect a girl, especially when it comes from someone of the opposite sex. I hate the fact that self-esteem is built or broken because of the opinions of others, but its the truth. Bianca coped with the insult but it truly affected her. What’s worse is that Wesley didn’t even realise how bad it made her feel; another reason why people should think before they speak.
There was something about this book that made it really easy to read. The protagonists were all seventeen and the author was seventeen when she wrote it. This was obvious, and not in a bad way. Keplinger truly understood what it was like to be that age, and wasn’t afraid to show the explicitness that comes with it.
The true message is, everyone feels like a DUFF sometime in their life. Although your appearance isn’t all you are, when you’re a teenager, it sure feels that way. Because of this, I’d only recommend this book to people 16-18, so they could really connect and sympathise with the life of the teenager. If you’re younger or older than that, I think this book would either be inappropriate or feel too teen-drama-y.
Overall, I’d give ‘The Duff’ 3 stars. I didn’t like the use of words such as ‘whore’ and ‘slut’, because it contradicted the message of calling someone a ‘duff’. THERE IS NO SUCH THING. But, it did make me think, which is always a good thing. Although it has quite a niche market, this book is interesting and insightful.