The Duff by Kody Keplinger

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After my Austenland post where I admitted to seeing the movie before reading the book, I thought I should admit to my second Book Baby failure. I saw The Duff movie before reading the book.
I am sorry.
Please forgive me. I am only human! It’s hard to keep up when there are just so many books that still need to be read!

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Normally I want to read the book first so I can create my own images before a movie lays them before me. Typically the movie follows the book quite well, using about 75-90% of the original material in the book. But The Duff was a rare exception; it didn’t matter that I saw the movie first because it doesn’t follow the same storyline as the book.

In the movie, Bianca asks Wesley to help her un-duff herself so she can attract her crush, Toby, and become someone people no longer overlook. This is your typical transformation storyline, much like the one I mentioned in my post on The Fine Art of Pretending. Even though this type of storyline is played out, Mae Whitman’s portrayal of Bianca is refreshing. She’s spunky, sarcastic, playful, and more reminiscent of a real teenager in comparison to the twenty to thirty year old actors who think they can still play teens on TV and in movies. I found Bianca relatable, and her banter with her friends and Wesley was both charming and laughable (which is hard to balance without making the character seem confused/lost by their own personality.

Now the reason why I went into detail about the movie is so you can see the difference in the book. Bianca still struggles to eliminate the duff label she has been given, but Wesley becomes her ally in a completely different way. To crush her frustrations after school and home drama, she and Wesley become secret bed buddies (yes, they use sex as an outlet). Bianca is still the poster child for the outspoken, angry teen, but the things she says and does are different than the movie. It’s like when you watch two episodes of your favourite sitcom… same character, different situations and dialogue to make you laugh. Of course, the two grow into more than just casual sex partners. The relationship between Bianca and Wesley that we see in the book is actually more complicated and meaningful than the movie, which is odd when you consider how they began  (the duff and the popular womanizer  dislike each other, but seem to have amazing sex in spite of that). As a stand alone novel, it’s hard to believe that they could progress to love in such a short time. But Keplinger did an amazing job at finding a great pace and scenarios that gave them opprtunites to grow, making it all believable.

It’s actually quite refreshing to read a novel where a romance blossoms from sex, and in this case it’s meaningless sex. I respect Keplinger for tackling such a controversial topic. Sex in general is often frowned upon when teens are involved, and casual sex is even worse. But it’s now a reality; the generations that will grow up in this century don’t all share the same ideals as their parents. I’m not saying whether meaningless/casual sex is right or wrong, but I am saying that it is more common, so it is nice to see how an author addresses it. Anything that breaks the norm of YA romance novels is okay by me! Definitely worth my time.

Wesley was actually my favourite character in the book because of all his flaws. It was sweet how much Bianca cared for him, trying to fix his broken family despite his cool facade, determined to believe that nothing was wrong. It was also nice to see his progression towards caring for Bianca. It was subtle, which made my heart race. It was in the little things, like standing up to her dad, bringing her flowers, and just forcing her to talk about her frustrations to get it off her chest. I’m a sucker for characters who are more than just their surface stereotype. Learning why he became a womanizer and watching him become a one woman kind of guy was certainly my favourite part of this book.

And last but not least, I enjoy the simple fact that the book doesn’t end with a school dance, public speech or gesture, or a mean girl being put in her place. This is how way too many high school chic flicks end, and The Duff movie is no exception. The book just ends at the same location where their relationship sort of began, and theirs nothing over-the-top about their actions or words. The entire room doesn’t stop to watch and listen, their isn’t a communal AWWWWWW that rings out, and there isn’t an antagonist to throw a temper tantrum. We don’t even get to see her friend’s reactions! It’s just simple and real. All we get is Bianca and Wesley, finishing their story their way…
Perfection.

Please enjoy this adorable read, Book Babies!

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