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Wednesday, September 22, 2010:
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (2010) - review
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.

I saw talk of this book on Twitter a few weeks ago, and thanks to the glowing words of Elyssa Papa, I decided to buy it (see, sometimes that's all it takes). After the annoyingly long wait for the book (you get what you pay for with free shipping), I finally got it last week, and when I finally got to it, I read it in about 2 hours, it was that good.

Bianca is the girl who sits at the bar of their teen hangout and keeps tabs on her girlfriends so they don't get into too much trouble. She's not much into the wild teen scene, but she loves her friends, and designates herself as their chaperone to keep them from getting out of hand. One boring evening while commiserating with the bartender, Wesley Rush, the handsome man-whore of her school, approaches her and gets her hackles up. And when he dubs her the DUFF of her group, she sees red - Cherry Coke red - and attacks.

But as time goes on and Bianca ends up encountering Wes more and more, she soon notices that her reaction to him after she kisses him makes her forget, takes the pain of her family life away for awhile. So when the two are assigned to work on a class project together, Bianca decides to kick it up a notch, and the two end up having sex. And whenever Bianca needs to stop thinking, she goes to Wesley.

But by covertly going to Wesley, she's also unconsciously avoiding her girlfriends, and this creates a bit of tension between them. Bianca is a little too caught up in her secret life, and she's not one to share what's going on at home. But now her actions may be jeopardizing her friendships.

And of course it's inevitable that after a time, Bianca begins to see glimpses into Wesley's life outside school, and what she discovers is not so perfect as she would have imagined for this beautiful, irritating boy. Yet when she starts to have feelings for him, it scares her off. Wesley is not supposed to make her care....

My thoughts:

What I loved about this book is that it feels extremely genuine, and it should, since the author is only 18 years old, and 17 when she wrote it. There's not an over abundance of angst and melodrama, but there is definitely a sense of authentic teenage emotion coursing through the story. We see the choices Bianca makes, or doesn't make, and it feels so real.

Another thing I loved is who effortless it is to read this story. The writing is so smooth, that it's like watching a movie play out, and I was flipping the pages faster and faster, wondering exactly how events would play out. I felt like I was standing in the hallways of the school, watching it all unfold around me, and I loved that feeling.

One thing I have to remember when I read a YA book is not to get frustrated by some of the choices the characters make. I've got decades more experience, so my choices would be different because I'm not a teenager and I don't think or feel the same way anymore. I'm not dependent on my parents, or have to worry about constant peer pressure or what my friends and classmates think. When I let myself remember what it was like to be Bianca's age, I can fully understand her reactions to what is happening around her, and how sometimes it's just easier to bury your head in the sand and pretend nothing's wrong.

Admittedly, Bianca is not always likeable, but you know what? That actually made me like her even more. She never tries to be perfect, she just is who she is, trying to cope with a crappy family life and now the added inadequacies of being considered a DUFF. And then to suddenly be having feelings for the boy who gave her the hateful nickname to begin with forces Bianca to go in a totally different direction. She runs.

Another thing about Bianca is that she's not a sappy teenager. I don't see her putting stickers of hearts and flowers all over her laptop, or getting all giggly over a boy. Bianca is more low-key, and that I liked most of all. I've never been much of a girly girl, and I don't act all helpless and stupid in front of anyone much less a guy, not even when I was a teen, so I fully appreciate that. Nor is Bianca the total rebellious teen, taking drugs and skipping school. She's somewhere in the middle, where a lot of us were back then. And the problems she's facing are very common issues that a lot of teens deal with, which makes Bianca fery easy to relate to. A lot of times, teens are portrayed as one extreme or the next - either bad kids or goody goodies, and Bianca is somewhere in the middle.

I also understood the way she tended to deflect attention away from herself. Whenever her friends would ask her how she was, she'd always say "I'm fine". I am very aware that I do this even now. I'm not big on sharing the burden of my problems with people, yet I tend to make a big deal out of little things. But her friends know her well enough to know that when she says those words, it usually means there's something going on. Bianca is stubborn though, and keeps so much to herself. She doesn't realize at first that by doing this, she's pushing her friends away. But she eventually learns to rely on her friends just like they rely on her.

I am really looking forward to reading the next story by Kody Keplinger, which looks like it will be out in 2011, but no details yet. But I can guarantee it's already on my TBB list!

Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. Wonderful review. I often have that same problem when reading YA-trying not to accept the choices the young peeps make made.

  2. I have the same problem while reading YA books. I must give this book a try-I have yet to see a bad review for it.

  3. I'm going to have to get this one - sounds like a great book. Wonderful review, Stacey!

  4. That good, sounds nice, cos yes I have seen this one around too.

  5. I'm itching to read this book. I want to read it so bad! Thanks for the review sweetie.

  6. Yay! So glad you enjoyed it! I loved this one!

  7. I loved The DUFF too, Stace. It was a great read. Loved the review.

  8. Ooh! This book sounds good. I think I'll look for a copy. Thanks for the review, Stacey!

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