The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger (NY: Little, Brown, 2011).
Bianca Piper hates Wesley Rush. Yes, he's hot, but he's a total player who's constantly hitting on every girl at school. Plus, he told her she's a DUFF, and now he keeps calling her Duff or Duffy. Bianca knows she's not as pretty as her friends, and she's a bit overweight, but she doesn't need the constant reminders. But when things go south at home, Bianca needs a distraction and Wesley is happy to step in.
Keplinger's novel delves into the brutal world of teen insecurities and body image. Bianca is like many teen-aged girls and has doubts about her appearance, constantly comparing herself to her friends and classmates. Her self-esteem suffers a further hit when her mom and dad divorce and her dad starts drinking. Hooking up with Wesley takes her mind off her troubles, but also adds to them as she feels compelled to hide her actions from her friends, just as she's hiding her family situation. I enjoyed the way the story not only played on Bianca's insecurities but also showed that everyone has the same doubts, including the wealthy and popular crowd. The novel likewise demonstrates the hurtful power of words and labels. Highly recommended for ages 14 and up. Sexual situations, alcohol, language.
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