Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review: The Duff

by Brittany Geragotelis

I'd been hearing about the book The Duff long before I got a hold of it. Rumor has it that the book is the next big thing. I believe part of the draw is that the author of this YA novel is still a teen herself. Eighteen years old to be exact.

The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger is a book about growing up, dealing with the tough stuff that life throws your way, insecurities, friendship, sex and love.

photo credit: Poppy
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie, Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
I knew from reading other reviews of The Duff, that a lot of people are connecting strongly with the idea behind the title of the book. In the story, Wesley explains that Bianca is "The Duff"—The "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" of her group. The concensus seems to be that at some point or another, everyone's felt like The Duff; even the prettiest among us have days where we feel less than fab, and even lame in comparison to our friends.

Oddly, it wasn't this aspect of the book that I connected with most (although I've certainly had my off-years, too). It was the part about Bianca going after the wrong man to help her escape the real issues that were troubling her. In the book, Bianca finds herself desperately needing a distraction from her problems (in this case, her parent's impending divorce and her alcoholic father's relapse) and the negative way she sees herself.

So, she turns to her enemy as a way to ignore the chaos going on around her. She needed the release and participating in risky behavior (she gets into a very active, no-strings-attached sexual relationship) with a guy who is unavailable and treats her like crap every once in a while (although there are times when he does redeem himself), allows her to act out and check out for a few brief minutes at a time.

In the past (as a teenager and in my 20s) I was certainly guilty of using outside things as a way to ignore stuff that was going on around me. I made plenty of bad decisions, did things that were potentially harmful and chose to hang out with people who really only made me feel worse about myself. All because I didn't want to deal.

Eventually Bianca realizes that she needs to address the issues that have turned her world upside down and when she does, that's when things start to work themselves out. And I really feel like this is true to life, too. You can run away from the bad stuff—numb it with boys, alcohol, shopping, whatever your poison, but in the end, the problems won't go away forever and you'll have to face them or remain miserable.

Overall, I enjoyed The Duff. As I was reading it, it sounded more like I was reading a book about college girls than high school girls with the amount of sex there was throughout the whole thing, but all in all, I enjoyed the story. I think reviewers are right...this book will be popular with teens. Because the truth is, everyone's been The Duff at some point or another.