Series: The DUFF #1
Published by Poppy on September 7th, 2010
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Buy on Amazon
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 “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.
I acquired this book off of recommendations from other friends that highly recommended a sex-positive novel aimed for girls. The movie had just released, and I thought it would be a great time to read this buzzed novel. I thought it was best to just go in blindly and not set any expectations. I knew that the book had quite a bit of sex (not a problem), but other than that, it was going in blind.
Even though I didn’t set myself up with any expectations, I certainly wasn’t prepared to dislike this novel as much as I do. There were some good parts, and important messages, but like any other recipe, good ingredients can’t save dish when you mix it in with bad, rotten ingredients. I respect the message that Kodlinger was sending, but the messenger completely turned me off the story.
So where did DUFF go wrong? There is a strong, no-nonsense female protagonist that inwardly struggles with her body image, a gorgeous yet conceded charmer, wonderful best friends and a school of various students. The setting was great, and the depiction of a typical high school hit the mark.
Yet I angrily slapped two stars on this one.
Here is the problem: Bianca. There are strong, callused young girls everywhere who speak their mind. I like those things. I admire characters that speak their mind and wear the “bitch” badge with honor. Because being a “bitch” is awesome. In today’s society, “bitch” is thrown at a female that is simply secure and comfortable with herself or her words. The bitch movement is a wonderful embrace of feminism, taking a label that has been used as a weapon in the past, clubbing down women with strong opinions and sharp tongues. We’re taking it back. We’re owning it. We smile when the work is hurled at us. Because it isn’t an insult, it is a testament that we’re on the right track.
But Bianca isn’t a proud standing “bitch”. She’s a bitter person with a bitter outlook and a bitter personality. Reading the story from her POV send me into a downward spiral of depression, because I couldn’t stand to be inside her head. She wasn’t a smart mouth smart girl who wasn’t afraid of speaking her mind. She was an angry, bitter, hateful person who just wanted to tear down others. She tear she did. Slut shaming, lying, unneeded snarkiness – I honestly wish I had never met this main character. How can I relate to a girl who calls her friends “snobs” and “bitches” when Bianca is the one shrugging them off? When you ditch your friends and then hang up on them in the middle of a conversation, what do you expect will happen? Everything will just be okay because you’re naturally an angry, hate-filled sack of rage? You didn’t think the friend you insulted and lied to wouldn’t take it personally? And when said person brushed you off, because they are understandably HURT by your actions, what gives you the right to wonder “what the hell their problem is?” YOU. You are the problem. You make everyone around you miserable because you like to be miserable. Even the guy she sleeps with is a victim of her horrible nasty attitude. Hell, she flat out ASSAULTS him at the start of the book! How well do you think this would have gone over if two people sleep together, and the guy calls the girl a slut and an idiot? It wouldn’t go over well, and with good reason. It is the same reason why this didn’t sit well with me.
There are parts of the story that I did like, such as a teen trying to determine what to do about an alcoholic parents, coming to terms with divorce, how everyone, in their own way, is a DUFF. The book is sex positive and goes in depth on slut shaming and poor peer relationships and the root of such issues, but there is way too many other issues that overshadow the good.
Watch the movie instead – the book was full-out girl-on-girl hate with an unbelievable “change of heart” at the end, when the entire book already arrived with cardiac arrest.