Just finished reading (well, listening to) The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger.
This is my third round with an audiobook, so I want to talk about that before anything else. I feel like I can officially say I’m not an audiobooks person. They’re not bad, but they’re not as good as sitting and reading a book. I won’t judge anyone for listening to audiobooks, but I have trouble concentrating on them. I can’t just listen, so I’m listening while doing something else (usually driving and cooking), so I’m inherently distracted. This takes away from my overall experience. With the exception of The False Prince, I wish I would have read the other two audiobooks I’ve listened to. I was going to read them eventually, but with The False Prince, I wasn’t going to listen to it, so it didn’t take away from what I was hoping to get from it.
For drives, audiobooks are great. On a highway, driving is a pretty passive task, so an audiobook does help kill time. That said, podcasts are almost as good and don’t cost me money every month. I reserve the right to change my mind, and I’ve still got the chance use an audibooks.com trial if I want to give it another go, but for now, I’m sticking to bound books and e-books.
The Actual Review
I have a confession: I read the book after watching the movie. I know, I know. You should always read the book first. Typically, the books are going to far outstrip the movies.
But here’s the thing: The book and the movie are next to nothing alike. Here are the similarities: There’s a girl with two attractive friends who’s not big into dating and is called the DUFF by the attractive male lead, and the girl has a crush on another guy who isn’t as classically handsome as said male lead but is apparently a more well-rounded human being. That’s it. So if you’ve seen the movie or read the book, and you’re considering the other, feel free to go ahead. They’re different.
The movie is a relatively generic geek wins the day movie. It was fine. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. There are big bags of awkward moments, but that’s the type of movie it is. It’s a classic geek helps the attractive person story. It oversimplifies things.
The book doesn’t do this. The book lets the characters keep depth and doesn’t rely on the same tropes you see all over the place in teen movies (though maybe these are the same tropes you see in YA fiction; I’m not sure. My brand of YA fiction involves supernatural elements, so contemporary real-world YA fiction is newish to me).
This paragraph will be the end of the spoiler-free review: You’ve got an interesting idea that sometimes underperforms in its execution and telegraphs most of its punches, but that’s ok. This isn’t a high-brow affair, but the book has its charm. And f-bombs.
You are now entering a spoiler zone.
The story feels like a lot of different books and movies merged together, and at the same time, the mix still feels fresh enough.
We have a dork who becomes entangled with the coolest person in school (see She’s All That, Can’t Buy Me Love, Twilight). And of course, they’re going to end up together. We always knew that. How it gets there is interesting. This book wasted no time throwing the characters together thanks to turmoil in the lead’s life. She basically throws herself at a guy, and it sort of sticks. But it turns out there’s turmoil in the other person’s life as well. Not exactly unexpected.
This turmoil and inner struggle is the bulk of the book, which is why the movie had to alter things. Books are great for thoughts. Movies aren’t. Look at Hunger Games. The first book is basically just Katniss thinking as she tries not to die. The movie couldn’t do that, so they added those extra elements so you could see things from a broader perspective.
I gave The DUFF four starts on Goodreads, but I do have gripes. The side characters feel underdeveloped. You have two friends who are always around but never feel like actual human beings. You have the sister of the male lead who pops in twice, but the weight of her character feels like she should have gotten more time on the page. And so on and so forth. It’s a good read (see what I did there?), but it’s not a great read.