I held back from reading this book for years because I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it; the title alone was enough to annoy me but due to a mild interest in the upcoming (already released? idek) movie I figured I’d ignore my misgivings and give this book a try. Well. Turns out I should have listened to my own advice.
The DUFF is about a girl who is considered to be the Ugly Fat Friend in her group, a title given to her by
some loser guy ~the most popular guy in school~ who hangs around in bars thinking up abbreviations like DUFF as part of a convoluted scheme to get girls to sleep with him. Whatever.
Bianca, the ‘DUFF’, is honestly so tedious – she’s prickly and antisocial, quick to dismiss high school traditions as ridiculous and unnecessary and is seriously judgmental of other girls her age. Wesley is the unfathomably popular guy who targets Bianca as the DUFF in her friend group, and thus an antagonistic relationship is formed. I really did not like him. With Bianca it’s a lot easier for me to understand her mindset; yes, she’s not a character I warmed to but she’s also a teenage girl trying to survive in an environment that can be incredibly hostile to teenage girls. Wesley, on the other hand, is a good looking guy with every privilege afforded to him. He basically attacks Bianca’s self-image, and countless girls before her. I just…how dare he sit around judging girls for the way they look and behave, and then have the audacity to then pursue one of those girls? Bianca grows throughout this book but Wesley never does – it is notable that when he eventually does apologise, he does it to Bianca in the vein of ~you’re not like anyone else (those OTHER girls)~ and it really annoyed me. Society will always find ways to excuse the behaviour of privileged white boys; I don’t need fiction targeted at teenage girls to perpetuate the idea that boys who behave the way Wesley does are just waiting for the ‘right girl’ to come along and change their viewpoint.
ANYWAY, some good points: I was impressed with how open this book was about teenage sexuality; Bianca sleeps with Wesley several times throughout the course of the novel and she has a great time. She is a sexual character who uses sex as a way to relax and to feel good about herself – there is a lot of subtext about how Bianca, powerless in her ordinary life, regains that same power in her sexuality. YAS SEXUAL WOMEN. This is also a pretty good book in terms of female friendships – Bianca and her two best friends are all different, both in personality and looks but they are close regardless of their differences and apparent varying social rankings (…America…) I also thought that Bianca’s character development was very realistic. She doesn’t stop being cynical just because she falls in love but she does see that her tendency to judge people at face value is a childish habit that she works to slowly overcome.
Ultimately, I do think this book has merits that explain why it gets so much praise in the book community, but for me personally I found the love story, and more to the point, the love interest to be infuriating. I did not enjoy that aspect of the book at all, which is a shame because it is a huge part of the story. Guys like Wesley should be dumped in the trash t b h.