Championing Contemporary YA is a movement in celebration of June as the Contemporary month over at The Contemps. Between, the 3rd – 10th of June, Dreamcatcher’s Lair will be championing Contemporaries that deserve being talked about.
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.
The Duff has been up and about in blogosphere for a while now and you could say I’m late in joining the party. But I think it’s fitting I waited for a while till I read it, so now its on the Championing Contemporary YA list, which I think it deserves, because this loud-mouthed debut raises a lot of issues.
There’s a lot going on here – like, high-drama family problems, being labelled the ‘designated ugly fat friend’ by the hottest-guy-cum-serial-lets-get-laid star in school, blasts from the past and all that jazz. Yes, it’s a high-on roller-coaster ride in the life of the super-skeptical Bianca Piper. And yeah, there was room for improvement with the prose, but that’s something you get over quickly because Keplinger is more concerned with sending the point across than pretty writing. Which, really, is the purpose of books in the end.
The back cover might read like the usual foes-turned-foes-turned-something-more story, but the thing about The Duff is that it packs in a lot more. Like social labelling, slut-slamming, breaking stereotypes and conventions. ‘Fat’ is not the literal fat here. Fat stands for feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing that once in a while everyone of us go through. Heck, Bianca’s pretty-as-strawberry cheerleader best friends, too, admit to feeling like the ‘duff’ more often than not. Fat, skinny, tall, short, medium – the duff issue applies to all.
Keplinger’s heroine is a fresh, young badass who doesn’t shy away from saying things as she feels it, doing things as she sees it (like kissing Wesley and more). She isn’t your sweet-talking seventeen year old afraid to do things that would throw her under the ‘wrong’ light. Yet she is your thinking-YA-teen-with-zing. And the success of this novel rests more on her than anything else.
The Duff may not be a book for everyone. Reactions have stretched to both extremes. Heck, I didn’t have any love lost for it initially, but the brash honesty with which it chooses to speak to the reader makes this a commendable read.
Is there a loud-mouthed badass you love? Any book featuring one that I should read?