Summary: 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.
Source: I purchased a Kindle copy
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I loved The Duff. I loved Bianca the moment I started reading and realized that her cynical and sarcastic personality rules and isn’t something I see often enough in YA fiction. I bought the book after seeing a movie preview and thinking the same thing about Bianca’s character. I thought she was funny. The title threw me off because I tend to highly dislike characters with self esteem issues in fiction because they are usually overly critical of themselves and tend to tell the reader how many calories they are eating and how it makes them feel. (Can we please have some girls who love themselves, publishing industry?) I knew from the get-go that Bianca’s narration would be tolerable and she wasn’t about to get all angsty about food.
Basically, one of the hottest and biggest playboy from school decided to chat up Bianca and tell her she was The Duff. Designated Ugly Fat Friend. His plan was to chat her up and make a good impression on her hot friends. She was so disgusted, she threw a Coke in his face. Somehow, sometime later, she ended up kissing him and feeling terrible about it. He was such a jerk.
A lot of people hated Bianca, hated the fact that the characters had sex without love/marriage/romance, and hated the fact that Bianca would engage in a physical relationship with Wesley, shut her friends out, and keep her family drama (which was rather alarming) to herself. These are reasons I liked the story. Bianca acted like a teenager probably would. Teens are focused on themselves, the way they feel about things, and are shamed and confused when it comes to adult issues, despite attempting to navigate the adult world. Even adults act like that. We don’t always do the right thing. Sometimes, it works out.
Bianca kissed Wesley because he was honest. She didn’t have to impress him because he was a jerk and she hated him. He was honest about how he felt, which makes things so much easier sometimes. I totally understood why she chose to distract herself with someone like him, just like I knew that he was masking his own insecurities with his promiscuity and cavalier attitude. And when they got close enough to actually realize how much they had in common (like how they coped with things), I was rooting for the two of them so much!
The Duff kind of did what Mean Girls did in regards to names we call each other. Names like Duff, whore, slut, geek, etc were all things we call each other to make ourselves feel better. Despite the negativity and screwed up nature of things in the book, it had such a positive message overall. Some reviewers dislike the fact that Bianca would give anyone the time of day who treated her badly, but I really liked Wesley and I think if he knew how much the word Duff hurt Bianca, he never would have continued to use it as a term of endearment. The book isn’t trying to (nor does I think it even seem like it is) make it seem like having casual sex with someone who treats you like crap is the right thing to do and will work out and turn into love. It’s about figuring out who you are, what you want, and navigating complicated life as a teenager. I loved it.
I highly recommend The Duff. It’s YA, but definitely mature, as it deals with sex other adult issues. It’s a great read for anyone who enjoys upper YA books that explore growing up, figuring things out, and falling in love. It was a million times better than I ever expected and I didn’t want it to end.