The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Book Poster Image
Formulaic but fun romance good for beach reading.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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?

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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. 

Sex

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.

Language

Lots of uses of words such as "a--hole," "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "whore," and "slut." 

Consumerism

Not too saturated, but a few products are mentioned, including Cherry Coke, Diet Coke, Gossip Girl, Titanic, and Dr. Phil

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.

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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Teen, 13 years old Written byas215928 April 29, 2016

Alfredo review

Frumpy high-school senior Bianca (Mae Whitman) has a rude awakening when she learns that her classmates secretly know her as the DUFF -- designated ugly fat fri... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byalexandria55 September 29, 2015

The Duff

Author: Kody Keplinger | Genre: Fiction, Romance This story is about a girl named Bianca Piper. She and her bestfriends Casey and Jessica were at a place... Continue reading

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?

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