Until Bianca Piper was called the D.U.F.F (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she was pretty satisfied with herself and her life. But when gorgeously handsome but notorious skirt-chaser Wesley Rush dares judge her, it derails everything. Suddenly Bianca is starting to really feel like the Duff. She doesn’t get hit on as much as her friends, Jess and Casey, and she knows she isn’t as attractive; Bianca’s mom has just sent her dad divorce papers after being separated for awhile, and her dad is devastated, turning again to alcoholism; and Toby Tucker, the boy she’s had a crush on forever, has just broken up with his girlfriend but still doesn’t seem to see Bianca. Then, because she’s at a club she hates on a Friday night, sitting alone, and freaking out about her world falling about her ears, Bianca has some sort of out-of-body experience and kisses Wesley when she knows she hates him and his stupidly arrogant, flirty, I-don’t-give-a-crap ways, (even if for the moment he was just asking her if she was okay) and of course, after she kisses him, he tries to feel her up! To make matters worse, her teacher assigns them to be partners for a paper, and Bianca has to go over to his rich, loud, and empty mansion, haunted by her friends teasing her and debating some stupid teen queen event that one of them will probably win.
Bianca thinks, what if being the Duff isn’t as bad as she thinks it is? It’s now sounding like it might be easier to have no expectations, and not care about how others see her, since she’s already at Duff status anyway. Caught in an emotional limbo when beginning their research paper on The Scarlet Letter, Bianca thinks she needs an escape, like Hester did, and uses Wesley, because it’s not like he’s going to turn her down for–ahem–sex. There begins their furious secret relationship as Bianca tries harder and harder to run away from her problems and doesn’t realize that even that has a consequence. In growing closer to Wesley, her thoughts of him start to change, and so do her own perceptions of herself and what being a Duff actually means.
So there are a few key plot points in this book that I had to suspend my belief for…namely, that she would be so cavalier about sex so quickly and that she could just turn off her self-consciousness about her body in order to do said act. Still, this aside, I actually liked Wesley and felt Bianca’s identity crisis to be true. This book really surprises you, and shows some wisdom in the whole Duff situation– *Spoiler* that everyone is a Duff in their own way. (See end chapters with Wesley’s admission and Casey and Jess’s.) The one thing that I hated was how irresponsible her parents were, and Bianca, despite everything being piled against her, does show tremendous strength in overcoming these barriers, mostly by herself with Wesley as support. A good, entertaining read.
Note: Strong language, alcohol, violence and a lot of sexuality.
Book vs. Movie
As for the film, *insert big sigh here*, I almost don’t want to go into it. I don’t see how author Kody Keplinger could really say that it wasn’t clichéd. Okay, so there was no “makeover the girl who everyone sees is plain but is secretly gorgeous” moment which is a huge cliché, and Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman really were genuine, but other than that, the whole movie is made up of one teen movie cliché after another. The entire storyline changed (which was probably for the better since it would have involved a ton of PG-13 sex scenes), and it just didn’t have the same meaning. Book-version Wesley comes out as much more of a zero-to-hero since he punches her drunk dad in the face and gives her a place to crash, while also trying to be a really good friend and be honest with her. Ultimately, the movie bases much more on appearances and romance than self-image and self-worth, which is what the book really illustrates. Faults: the pointless teacher bits, the journalism story, that Jess and Casey were really not likeable–just more flat, that Bianca’s entire family dynamic changed, that it revolved around a Homecoming kiss, Toby Tucker was a complete jerk, they added a female arch-nemesis, and that it revolved around humiliating videos and gossip. Maybe teens liked it, I couldn’t say, but really, couldn’t be farther from the book. In this case, pick one or the other, but for heaven’s sake, don’t do both or you’ll die of annoyance.
Unless, of course, you just like seeing Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman, which is the only thing that saved me.