Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review/ The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Thursday, October 7, 2010
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 really wanted to love The Duff, and there were elements of the story that I did love, but unfortunately, there were other elements that I did not.

First, let me talk about what I did love. Bianca was a terrific character. Her cynical nature came through loud and clear. She was way more mature than many teens her age are, and I think her parents and her friends all contributed to this maturity. I loved her independence, her ability to separate herself from her friends activities yet still be a part of their world simply because they were friends. Keplinger’s writing was another aspect that made this a fun and enjoyable read, and why not? She is a teen herself; so consequently, much of the dialogue rang true for me. I didn’t feel like I was reading about characters trying to be teens, but hearing from voices that were indeed dealing with real teen issues: divorce, sexuality, and self esteem.

What I did not love was how Bianca used sex as an escape. If it had not been for Keplinger’s writing, I probably would have abandoned the book after Bianca’s second sexual encounter with Wesley. I had a hard time understanding how Bianca could honestly allow herself to become sexually active with the very guy who labels her “The Duff.” I kept reading because I kept hoping that the end message would clarify things enough for me to accept the constant sexual encounters Bianca and Wesley had. Keplinger does eventually provide a somewhat acceptable resolution to the conflicting emotions Bianca has, but it was not enough for me to feel cleansed of the inaccuracies of Wesley and Bianca’s sex. Instead, I felt it was way to pat to be realistic.

While I was hoping for a book that discussed self-image, self-esteem, and promoted a healthy body image, I felt that The Duff failed to convey any of this in a meaningful way. The strongest message I got from the book was that a smart, snarky, young woman loses her self-confidence because a guy calls her a Duff. I really hated that a great character like Bianca becomes embittered by one negative comment and uses sex as a way to forget everything that is not right in her life. Instead, I wished Bianca would have shared these things with her close friends, who were always supportive and caring.

I think that Keplinger has a great deal of talent and will certainly read more from this young writer. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book for the majority of YA readers.



Aleksandra said...

Thanks for the review!

Nomes said...

i dont think this is for me. i feel there has been a lot of hype and overwhelming support for this book but I have read a handful of honest reviews from reviewers whose opinions i respect that i am so grateful for (all who were not afraid to mention factors they didnt like) - thanks for the honest review (as always)

AtenRa said...

Thanks for the honest review!I am on a tour for this one so I don't think I'll get it anytime soon.At the beginning I read such praising reviews.But then other people,whose opinions I respect more, started saying different so I really don't know what to make of it :/

Melissa said...

See, this is exactly why I'm afraid to read this book. I hear a lot of hype about it, and it sounds interesting, but I'm really not okay with casual sex in YA literature, especially when the partners in question pretty much loathe eachother.

Thank you for this honest review, Jan. I don't think this book is for me, but I know there's definitely an audience for it :)

anjohnston said...

This is the first negative review I've heard about this novel. I hadn't heard the Bianca was sexual active with Wesley before this. I am still interested in reading this one but I understand your reservations. Thanks for the honest review!

Daisy said...

Thanks for the review! I'd been a bit sceptic about adding this to my to-read list because of all the raving reviews about it, but decided to add it anyway. I'm glad I know what to expect!

Mad Scientist said...

This book does not look like my cup of tea. But great review.

Mad Scientist

Jo said...

Very nice review!!! After reading this, I feel I can admit.... I started this book and didn't finish it. I started out liking it, and then just started to ... not like it. I agree with what you said about the sex being an escape -- I just wasn't believing the story after a while. But I did like other parts of the book. :)

Jenny N. said...

I've seen mixed reviews for this one but i still want to try it for myself.

Darlyn said...

Okay, you just made my day! I've been wondering if I should read this book. I heard so many mixed review on this. But if I have the chance, i will read it. maybe not my copy ;p

chelleyreads said...

My sister really liked this one but thanks for the honest review, Jan!

Happy reading:)

brandileigh2003 said...

Thanks for the review!

Have a great Sunday!
Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Tara said...

I think this is one of the first reviews I've read that wasn't like "OMG BEST BOOK EVER! I LOVE IT READ IT NOW!"... Glad I got to read your review...This book is on it's way to my house (Yay for!) right now, so I'll be reading it soon!

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