Summary (via Goodreads): 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.
Review (Warning—Light Spoilers): I had to give myself a week and one re-read to write my review so this review didn’t come out full of incoherent fangirl squeeing. Since reading The Duff I've been slightly internet stalking Kody Keplinger as I do most authors I love. (Note to Kody: it's harmless stalking...I swear. Just ignore that feeling like you're being watched all the time. It will fade once you get used to me.)
Just seventeen when she wrote this, I’m torn between admiration and insane jealousy of Keplinger. Her writing is realistic, but incredibly nuanced. (Note again to Kody: not "insane jealousy" like I'm going to 'Single White Female' you. More like I want to steal your words and make your brain mine...yeah...now that I think about it, that sounds worse, doesn't it?)
Fast-moving, charming, and honest, The Duff (which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend) hooked me from page one. Bianca is smart, spunky, and just a little insecure. Wesley, who could easily be a flat character with his “playboy” ways, is he’s as well-developed as Bianca. I totally understand how Bianca could fall for this guy she supposedly hated (heck, I kind of fell for him myself). The way their relationship evolves is completely believable. Their transition from "enemies with benefits" to friends to something even more happens so smoothly you don't even realize it's happening, much like the characters themselves. Their banter is witty and their hookups are, well, pretty hot. As they get to peel back the layers and emotional barriers you begin to see why these two people are so right for each other. Without really realizing it, each helps the other deal with larger issues. Bianca deals with her parents’ divorce and her father’s alcoholism, while Wesley faces absent parents and a grandmother that despises him.
I loved Bianca’s friends, Casey and Jessica. Both are very different from Bianca but incredibly loyal and clearly the trio cares very deeply for each other. At one point, Wesley says that he really only has one friend, who is gay, because other boys are jealous of him. I wish we could have seen a bit more how this affected Wesley. Girls so often turn against a girl that is seen as more sexually active I thought it was interesting that Wesley’s open attitude regarding sex made him a social outcast among the guys.
My only major gripe is that I think Bianca’s father’s alcoholism perhaps doesn’t get the attention it should. His outbursts and recovery are waved aside with a heartfelt apology and mention of AA, but I felt like the issue should have been more developed, especially since he gets violent with her. Also, her absentee mother showing up and expecting things to just work themselves out irked me.
And while I hated how Bianca let Wesley get away with calling her such a horrible name for so long, the scene where she finally admits how much it hurt her is so poignant and emotional you realize that Wesley has no idea how much weight that word carried. In their relationship, Keplinger elegantly explores issues of self-respect and self-worth that aren’t just regulated to teens. All women, young or old, feel like “the duff” at one point or another.
By now I'm sure it's apparent that I loved The Duff. I think I’d put it up there with Some Girls Are and The Sky is Everywhere as my favorite YA books so far this year (maybe ever). Unfortunately, The Duff doesn't come out until September. I know, I know, I'm sorry for raving about something that isn't in stores for you right now. But, I'm counting down the days until you guys can get your hands on this awesome debut novel. I'm sure once you read it you, like me, will be waiting eagerly to see what else Keplinger has in store for us.
Lit Snit Verdict: A+