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. And eventually, through this realization, Bianca begins to see how harmful her unhealthy way of dealing with her problems has been, and finds a way to confront them head on.
Why it took me so long to read this, I have no idea because I loved everything about it! I fell in love with Keplinger's writing with Shut Out and knew I had to read her back catalogue as well. The Duff is a funny and cynical story about teenage relationships and what they can lead to. Bianca was absolutely perfect; she was not a romantic by any means and was very tough-skinned. So when Wesley calls her the Duff of her friend group, she throws coke at him.
Bianca's home life was quite pitiful; her mum was always travelling and her dad always working, so Bianca pretty much looked after herself. Which is how she liked it, but when her world came crumbling down with divorce papers, she does the first thing she thinks of to distract herself: kiss Wesley. Not what I would call a healthy coping mechanism but Bianca uses Wesley to keep the bad thoughts at bay. And through this ever-increasing means of distraction, she learns a couple of things. The main one being that Wesley isn't all that bad. He was left to his own devices too and it sucked to be all along in a big house, plus his sister was pulling away from him encouraged by the poisonous words of their grandmother.
Despite being a pretty weird relationship, I liked Bianca and Wesley together. They sort of balanced each other out and neither took any bullshit from the other! But Bianca had to go an ruin it as she realised she was falling for him and she just couldn't do that to herself again. I think Keplinger did an amazing job keeping this down to earth and completely honest; Bianca's voice was brash and harsh yet hiding vulnerability and that made her so damn relatable. Keplinger also dealt with tougher issues than teen sexuality, from divorce to alcoholism which many kids go through and I think Keplinger handled brilliantly. Nothing is perfect and Bianca and Wesley were definitely affected by all this but came out stronger together for it.
Hilarious and touching, covering everything from parents to self-esteem, Keplinger has written an amazing debut and an absolutely adorable and realistic love story.
Published 5th April 2012 by Hodder.