The Duff by Kody Keplinger was a book I dived into and didn't stop reading. I was hooked on Bianca and Wesley's unconventional teenage romance.
Synopsis: 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 "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that 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.
The Duff is, as school hottie and womanizer Wesley Rush tells Bianca, the Designated Ugly Fat Friend, and in order to get into the good graces of Bianca's two hotter friends, Wesley is having a conversation with Bianca. But things go awry when Bianca kisses him. She regrets it instantly but if the kiss does one thing, it certainly makes her forget some of her troubles for awhile. When Bianca is paired up with Wesley for an English paper about The Scarlet Letter, kissing turns into something much more. "Friends with benefits" may be apt except Bianca does not consider him a friend.
Bianca and Wesley's relationship grows more complex as the story continues. Layers start to develop and form between them as they go from just a random hook-up to something more, something neither wants to articulate. The development of this relationship is riveting and kept me hooked on the story.
There are several other things going on in Bianca's life that contribute to her running to Wesley and one is her parents' divorce. I felt like the divorce angle was pretty well done for the story but my belief didn't quite work out when it came to her father's alcoholism. After falling off the sobriety track, it seems almost too easy for him to get back on and that has not been my experience with alcoholism. I guess for the sake of the story it was easier to have him committing easily to being sober again, but I didn't quite find that angle to be totally accurate. But then, I suppose sobriety is different for every one so I don't really have any evidence to back that up.
My one other qualm with this story is that I didn't really feel like Wesley's womanizing reputation came alive on the pages. Yes, Bianca told readers time and time again that he was willing to bed any girl in the vicinity, I didn't see him doing much besides flirting with girls in school, and let's be honest, flirting does not necessarily equate to a man whore. He was confident that he could get any girl he wanted, and he certainly reiterated that he never had to chase girls, but his reputation as the school playboy didn't quite, fully leap off the pages for me.
And a cover complaint: I actually prefer the version without the girl blowing bubble gum. It's too bad it was changed slightly.
But again, these are minor quibbles. On the whole, I really enjoyed this story. I liked seeing Bianca start to finally open up to someone, even if that person was someone she never expected to be honest with. I also really enjoyed her friendships with her two best friends, Casey and Jessica. These girls were really, really supportive of each other and that was refreshing to see. They were different in a lot of ways but their friendship felt honest and genuine on all sides. Bianca cared deeply for these girls and would go to the wall for them, just as they would for her.
And yes, there is plenty of sizzle between Bianca and Wesley. Not a graphic book but it certainly does not shy away from sex so it's probably better for your older teen readers. I liked the depiction of sex in this book too. It felt honest and real. Sex isn't always beautiful or done with a higher purpose. It's used to forget, to distract, and to numb pain and that worked both ways for Bianca and Wesley.
So yes, I enjoyed this story. I was really excited to see it in my mailbox on Friday and by Saturday night I had finished it. Kody Keplinger, bravo! I was hooked.
ARC received from Around the World Tours and from the publisher.