Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Review: The Duff

Kody Keplinger
2010; Poppy (Little, Brown); ISBN 978-0-316-08423-9 (hardcover)

Summary:  Bianca is smart, cynical, and realistic.  She knows she's not as pretty as her friends Casey and Jessica, but she's not exactly expecting to find her true love in her small town.  But things change when man-slut Wesley Rush tells her she's the DUFF: the designated ugly fat friend.  The insulting nickname makes Bianca hate Wesley even more.  But Wesley--and his lips and his hands and his body--are a great distraction from the problems in Bianca's life: the return of the older boy who broke her heart; her mother serving divorce papers on her father; her father's fall off the wagon.  Can Bianca stop trying to distract herself to turn her enemies-with-benefits relationship wtih Wesley into something more?

Keplinger's smart debut novel offers realistic teen characters and dialogue.  From Bianca's pointed cynicism to Jessica's peppy positivity, the characters in this novel sound like real teens.  Bianca slowly realizes that she can't push her problems away, maturing into a young woman who's willing to face challenges head-on.  Equally refreshing is Bianca's firm belief that love takes years to develop--she's no starry-eyed romantic.  The DUFF stands above most written-by-a-teenager novels, thanks to its strong characterization and efficient plot.  Pass this novel along to readers who want a coming-of-age story that feels real.

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