A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The DUFF could provoke discussion about tropes in romantic books and movies (the ugly girl turns out to be secretly pretty, the bad boy turns out to have a heart of gold, the best friends turn out to be perfect for each other). Is there anything wrong with this well-tread territory?
Bianca ultimately learns to believe that "every girl feels unattractive sometimes" and to cherish her loyal and beautiful friends who are awesome enough to make her feel like the DUFF from time to time.
Positive Role Models
Bianca's friends are supportive, even when she's making them angry. In the end, one friend figures out how to turn the label "the DUFF" from an insult into an empowering term.
Violence & Scariness
Bianca's father hits her and swears at her in a drunken rage; Wesley punches him in response. When Bianca first talks to Wesley, he insults her and she throws a drink in his face.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are steamy sex scenes between Wesley and Bianca, including a descriptive oral sex scene. She had sex for the first time when she was 14 and has been on birth control since then. She later hooks up with another boy in her bedroom, which also is described. Other characters have sex, including with multiple partners, and condoms are discussed. One teen character worries she's pregnant after she has sex with a college boy and the condom breaks.
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Lots of uses of words such as "a--hole," "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "whore," and "slut."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There is a subplot about Bianca's dad, a recovering alcoholic who has a pretty severe relapse. His behavior is not glamorized, and he eventually gets help. Also, Bianca talks about stoned guys talking to her in a teen club and about another boy who sneaks in with a beer.
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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.
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."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.