Book 134: "The Duff" by Kody Keplinger

Title: The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend
Author: Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Read In: Trade Paperback
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

I'm going to be honest (well, I try to always be). This book took me by surprise. I really wasn't expecting much from it. I had seen the movie, which was amusing enough to induce curiosity and cause me to read the book. I was expecting a lot of drama, angst, and not particularly great writing. While there is some drama and angst, this book is well written. I actually liked it quite a bit. A lot more that expected.

The storyline begins with the main character, Bianca, getting called a DUFF or the Designated Ugly Fat Friend by the "popular" guy in school. The term is not meant to signify that the person is ugly or fat, just more that they're the approachable person of their friend group. The key, as it were, to their more attractive counterparts. The term sends Bianca into a spiral and causes her to reevaluate her whole perspective on high school group dynamics. This is what I expected; very similar to the movie plot.

What caught me by surprise was the depth of the story after this point. The story is definitely character driven (which, as you know, is my preferred driving force). Bianca and every ancillary character grows throughout the novel and they are given histories and depth. They are relatable. Bianca is a sarcastic, smart, cynical individual that keeps the reader interested.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the morals and lessons of the story (mainly, that everyone feels like a Duff) were well expressed without being heavy handed. Really, the message was very good and almost empowering.

I definitely recommend this book. I do need to warn the reader that it is filled with sex and strong language; so before you recommend it to the teen in your life, be sure that isn't an issue.