You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.

20 Sep

This was a fun book to read.

As you may or may not know, I am on Twitter.  When I joined Twitter I obsessively looked for writers to follow because it’s fun and I love to surround myself with misery (like attracts like).  One of the awesome writers I chose to follow was Kody Keplinger, without realizing, initially, that she was in the middle of awaiting the publication of her first novel.  Of COURSE when it came out I ordered it from the store.  Of COURSE when I read it I felt driven to review it.

The DUFF.  The designated ugly fat friend.  The not-so-attractive person in a group of otherwise attractive people, generally approached by a wily man in order to win the respect of her more attractive friends.

In Kody Keplinger’s breakout novel seventeen year old Bianca Piper is given the responsibility of DUFFdom by high school heartthrob Wesley Rush when he attempts to charm her in order to win the affections of her friends.  From that point on, Bianca’s life changes dramatically.  She is haunted by the persistent Wesley Rush, the confining nickname “Duffy” he has coined for her, the stifling and drastic changes to her young life, and the guilt she feels for the way she chooses to distract herself from her pain.

Keplinger’s novel rehashes the agony of high school.  The constant self-evaluation and re-evaluation, the social pressure to enter into a romantic, the reality of a dramatic change in the family dynamic, the temperamental nature of friendship, and the difficulties of balancing all of these elements.  Written in the first person, The DUFF is Bianca’s story.  As she narrates she gives us a window into each and every emotion she experiences, from the pain of being called “Duffy” by the boy for whom she has very conflicting feelings, the confusing juxtaposition of guilt and comfort in this relationship, and the friendship-threatening desolation of having no one she trusts to talk to about it.  All the while, Bianca’s family life is crumbling and, to add insult to injury, when her car battery dies she is forced to accept a ride home from that love-him-and-hate-him Wesley Rush.

Beneath the wonderfully spunky dialogue and saucy narrative lie nifty messages.  There is no one person – no matter how intelligent, talented, or attractive – who does not feel as though they are The DUFF.  Wesley may have given Bianca this role in her group of “really hot friends,” but her Amazonian goddess best-friend-forever Casey, more than once, uses the term to describe herself.  It isn’t just “duff,” either.  Other colloquial terms that are used far too casually and thoughtlessly are discussed, with the underlying moral of think before you speak.  Or.  He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.

It has taken me a few days, after speed-reading overnight, to decide how I feel about this book.  There are things I do not like, but it’s just house-keeping (an overuse of ellipses, and text speak in written dialogue.  I have no idea how to read “BTW” as it is written into a character’s speech: bee-tee-double-ewe, or by-the-way?).  There is a higher instance of swearing (eff to the bizzomb) than I like in a Young Adult novel, but young adults do tend to swear more in more instances than I would.  The same goes for sex.  There is a great deal of implied sexual activity at the seventeen year old (and younger) level.  There again, teenagers have sex.  (I am way too far removed from high-school.)  Teenagers have sex and it is really quite fabulous of Miss Keplinger to address it in such a casual and non-judgemental way.  Ultimately?  I really like this book.  I love the cynicism, sass and sarcasm Bianca busts out, and I so approve of a character written as stunning, but who thinks that she is The DUFF.  The study of self-esteem and confidence in this novel is well executed and refreshing.

Kudos Miss Keplinger.  I eagerly await your next novel!

Metric – Sick Muse


PS. This is totally meeting a goal.


One Response to “You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.”


  1. A GED and a give-em-hell attitude. « Prolifically Barren - September 29, 2010

    […] Success! Well.  One month done, so far.  It wasn’t so bad.  It’ll be rough to get into this […]

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