A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is a romantic young adult book about feisty Bianca, who ends up falling in love with Wesley, a boy she hates -- but can't help hooking up with. This is a mature book: Teens have sex, use birth control, and worry about pregnancy; there are steamy sex scenes between the protagonists, including a descriptive oral sex scene. There are lots of uses of words such as "a--hole," "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "whore," and "slut." Also, Bianca's dad, a recovering alcoholic, has a pretty severe relapse, hitting and yelling at his teen daughter in a drunken rage. There are some complicated messages about love and romance, but Bianca does learn to believe that "every girl feels unattractive sometimes" and to cherish her loyal and beautiful friends who only make her feel like the Designated Ugly Fat Friend because they are so awesome. In the end, one friend figures out how to turn the label "the DUFF" from an insult into an empowering term. The book was adapted into a movie in 2015.
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What's the story?
When Wesley Rush calls Bianca "the DUFF" (the "Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend.") one night at a teen club, she throws a soda in his face. But soon after, she finds herself kissing the "disgusting womanizing playboy" at the same club, then beginning an intense sexual relationship with him after realizing hooking up with Wesley helps her avoid thinking about problems in her life. And Bianca has some big problems: Her mother's never home, and after her mother files for divorce from her father -- a recovering alcoholic -- he starts drinking heavily again and becomes abusive. But when Bianca starts talking to Wesley about real life, instead of just sleeping with him, she discovers she might not hate him quite so much after all.
Is it any good?
You can understand why movie execs decided to put this on the big screen; the premise is pretty fun, if formulaic and far-fetched, and this book certainly has some steamy moments. Like, really steamy. Some readers may not quite buy the subplot about Bianca's father, who has a rapid relapse and an equally quick recovery from alcoholism. And parents might want to help teen readers analyze the whole fantasy about turning a big-time jerk into the kind of guy who sends long-stemmed roses and romantic notes.
But there's some serious heat coming off these two fiery protagonists, making The DUFF a fun beach read. And even the most cynical of readers will appreciate Bianca's great friends and her gradual understanding that "every girl feels unattractive sometimes."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about romantic books and movies. Does this one seem to fit a formula? Do you think it's a realistic take on romance?
What do you think of Bianca's friend casually using the word "DUFF" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) and Bianca's conclusion that "The word was ours now, and as long as we held onto it, we could control the hurt it inflicted." Think about other insults such as "nerd" or "bitch"; is it possible to change the meanings of these kinds of words?
What do you think about the way Bianca's father's alcoholism is portrayed? What would you do if you found out a friend was living in that kind of situation?
- Author: Kody Keplinger
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Poppy
- Publication date: September 7, 2010
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 15 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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