quippe (quippe) wrote in cool_teen_reads,

The D.U.F.F.: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger

The Blurb On The Back:

“You, darling, are the Duff. Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” Wesley clarified. “No offense, it’s not like you’re an ogre or anything, but in comparison ...” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “You have hot friends ... Really hot friends.” He paused, watching the action on the dance floor for a moment, before facing me again. “The point is, scientists have proven that every group of friends has a weak link, a Duff.”

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’d 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 “the Duff”, she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out 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.

Bianca Piper is 17 years old and lives in a small US town with her father while her mother (a self-help guru) travels the country conducting conferences. Bianca knows that her two best friends – cheerleader Casey and the ditzy Jess - are more attractive than her but takes refuge in her cynical sense of humour and her crush on Toby, a sensitive intelligent boy in her classes.

Bianca’s self-confidence is shaken however when the school man-slut hottie, Wesley Rush, tells her that in her friendship she is the Duff – the weak link who boys are kind to in order to score with her friends. With her self-confidence shaken, she engages in an enemies-with-benefits sexual relationship with Wesley and for a while it works. But then Wesley begins listening to her and showing an interest in her problems – not least of which is her father’s return to alcoholism after her mother serves divorce papers – Bianca begins to panic. Not only can she not hate him any more, she thinks that she’s beginning to actually like him.

Kody Keplinger’s debut novel is a teen romance that revolves around the insecurity that many girls have about their appearance and how they compare with their friends.

Bianca has a strong first-person voice and has a deftly cynical sense of humour. The problem is that she has a soap opera catalogue of personal baggage in the form of a recovering alcoholic father and a mother who has disappeared to, essentially, find herself. Her father’s inevitable back slide into alcoholism is predictable, as is Bianca’s refusal to deal with it and while Keplinger competently handles the inevitable return of Bianca’s mother, there’s nothing new in those scenes.

Wesley is too thinly categorised for me. Rich, handsome and able to have any girl he wants, Keplinger tries to humanise him by giving him his own troubled background, which never really comes together. Worse though, I never really bought into what the two of them saw in each other beyond the superficial and that robs the romance of much of the tenderness that Keplinger is going for.

All in all, it’s a competent enough novel and romance fans will probably enjoy the central story. I’ll be interested to see what Keplinger does next as she does tap into insecurity well, but hopefully her next book will steer clear of obvious cliché.

The Verdict:

This competent debut teen romance manages to tap into the insecurity that many teenage girls have about their appearance and the way in which many girls compare themselves to their friends to good effect. However there is an equal amount of soap opera cliché in terms of the main character’s background and personal problems, which ultimately dragged the story down for me. I’m interested in seeing Keplinger’s next novel, but hopefully she’ll go in a more original direction.

Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming and yalitlovers.

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