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.
I hadn’t heard the term “DUFF” (or “designated ugly fat friend”) before the trailer for this movie premiered. That being said, I’m quite familiar with assessing one’s worth on the basis of comparisons, so I’m glad that Keplinger decided to tackle this issue. Everyone has moments of insecurity, and I appreciated how Bianca wasn’t treated any less for having them.
All of the characters in The DUFF are flawed, realistic portrayals of high school students though I can’t say I really fell for any of them. Bianca’s snarky attitude and cynicism initially won me over, but her selfish nature made her difficult to like at times. I understood why she initially threw herself at Wesley – after all, I’ve been known to indulge in retail therapy as a method of distraction – but I couldn’t get on board with her disregarding her best friends to avoid her problems.
Regardless of how sweet Wesley Ayers seemed later in the story, I just couldn’t get behind the romance. A large part of this is likely because he made a point of referring to Bianca as “duffy” every time they spoke; he did genuinely apologize about it later on, but that couldn’t cancel out my first impression of him.
Although I loved The DUFF‘s realistic portrayal of teenagers and their insecurities, I didn’t feel that the secondary issues were handled very well. Alcoholism and divorce were important portions of Bianca’s home life, but they didn’t receive much exploration and were resolved too neatly for my liking.
Overall, The DUFF was merely an average read for me. Hopefully the movie is more enjoyable.