I don't like romances.
Im not huge fan of chick books or cheesy sex novels you find on the racks of your local Safeway either. I'm a dude, it's pretty much well accepted those with male genitalia are not going to like books marketed towards women.
Well, most of the time.
The problem with chick-media (Books, movies, etc.) is that they go over the top to make it girly and fail to do the other half of the work-make something appealing to men. It's either because of those stupid defined gender roles (Barbie) or it's because the male sex is supposed to be some perfect specimen and the developer of said media could care less about what the other gender is about (Twilight).
I've said it before-had Edward been vulnerable, had he been given flaws (besides the vampire gimmick) Meyer would have a potential wide-spread novel. I say potential because, well, this is Stephenie Meyer we're talking about.
Yes I read Twilight, the review will come soon, when the time is right.
It was my duty, no it was my new search to have my point proven. That point is-Men CAN enjoy a chick book, a chick flick, or anything. Sure it's not something we're going to scavenge for, weeks on end, BUT if done right, and we're in a bind, we could read a girls novel, enjoy it for what it was, and put it back on the rack none the wiser for it.
I'll go back to Twilight-That is not good. Why? because the one fundamental is lost: We don't have a compelling male character. The whole point of view/narrator storytelling thing is a work of bullshit. We don't need to be in Edward's shoes, we just need him to have problems like us. Men HAVE PROBLEMS. We are just as vulnerable as girls. We just hide it better, well sometimes.
This brings us to The DUFF. It's almost the polar opposite to what Twilight was trying to do. In fact, I'd encourage Kody Keplinger to grab Meyer's manuscript, scribble on it with a red pen, and publish HER treatment of it. At least she could get it half right. It's hard to really place this. The book was compared to A Clockwork Orange during some festival which I would think the author, her agent, and her editors would be immensely proud for the nod (I even sent letters of congrats to them), though it is nowhere near Clockwork's story or moral. It's just different times. The main storyline written through The DUFF is available a dime a dozen these days, and I can't say I found it unpredictable.
This of course is one of those rare occasions where the ending doesn't matter. In fact this is one of those rare occasions where no one should give a hoot on the storyline.
But for those who are curious: The DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend. A cliche and member of the girl's cliques we all are familiar with. You know; you got the drill team-then the fat slob that is friends with the drill team. Typically, in my experience, she's the one who they hand off to you when they are sick of you hitting on them. Or in this book's case-The cheer squad, then the fat girl who watch's cheer squad practice. Two things are different in this book than from real life: 1: The cheer squad girls consist of only one, and main character Bianca never really associates with the rest of those girls and 2: Reading the book you'd find out that Bianca, the books title character probably isn't as hideous as she leads you on to believe.
The trouble all starts when Bianca is told of this great acronym by the male lead and promptly pours a glass of Cherry Coke into the poor sap's face. From there we have normal teenage girl storytelling: Divorce, sexual conquest, alienation from friends, and feeling you're just not right.
We've seen all this before, but thanks to Keplinger actually not being boring, and not having a dependency on adverbs-it's fresh and entertaining for a dude. Let's do this.
A senior at Hamilton High who seems to have the most pessimistic behavior of anyone I've met...well besides myself. Bianca, being the narrator, spends the book complaining about every...single...thing. That is until this dude named Wesley shows up, and she simply starts complaining about him, to his face, then has sex with him.
Bianca is a poster child for teenage angst. She really doesn't understand why life dealt her the hand she has, and she has no way of dealing with it. Her friends are more friendly, more sexy, more everything she isn't (allegedly). Her dad has relapsed into alcholism hallway into the book and her mom decided to live the life of a rockstar and run away to Tennesee of all places.
This leaves Bianca stuck depending on her friends and going to a teen club called The Nest every Friday to listen to screaming techno while bitching to the bartender about how her life sucks.
Of course when it's all said and done, Bianca ends up meeting someone who acts just like her-Mr. Wesley Rush, which as you can imagine-drives her absolutely bonkers through the rest of the book. By the end, Bianca does what any self respecting teen does and says "fuck it" and takes the guy for what he is.
Woman Reaction: Oh I always feel fat. I feel like the fattest girl in my circle of friends. I can identify.
Pat's Reaction: Oh for fucks sake put a sock in it! Bianca's bitching only kept my attention for so long before I called for a third person perspective which could hopefully give me less of her complaints. It never came and I was left to listen to her bitch, that was until she started bumping uglies with Wesley and went into Bella mode talking about his "Muscular arms" and his perfect body. I made a 180 and called for her to get notoriously bitchy before I set the book down. Thankfully, she did.
In Six Words: Being bitchy pushes guys away, idiot.
A lonely senior who gets to live the life of James Bond. Wesley lives in a huge-ass mansion with absolutely no one around. Combine this with good looks and you have a guy who somehow is able to take advantage of the sluttiest high school in America. God, I remember we had those getting laid, but when I was in highschool the majority were too afraid to lose their virginity let alone do it at 14 (Bianca's age for losing her virginity).
Being the ladies man he is, Wesley runs into Bianca one night and calls her the book's title. This prompts the feisty anti-social girl into dumping her drink on him and storming off. From there things get more violent, she slaps him-he fucks her. She tells him he's an arrogant asshole...and he fucks her again.
The first half of the book, Wesley is made to be a total dick-around for a simple point of being something Bianca can sleep with to get her mind off everything else. But since Keplinger knows what a storyline is, we learn the guy has a sister living with a grandmother (a grandmother who hates him), a pair of parents who would rather go on Carnival Cruises than be parents and a mansion all to himself.
On second thought, that sounds like the life every teenage boy wants to have, hell I'm 27 and I want it.
Woman Reaction: He's such a dick, why does he sleep with her. Awwww he sent her roses and is chasing her now!
Pat's Reaction: Ladies and Gentleman, THIS is how you make a male romance character. Wesley is a DICK to the definition, BUT he is also vulnerable and he also has some serious problems. Throughout the book, while Bianca is learning she's falling for the poor sap, Wesley slowly begins to show there's more to him than regular STD testing and Trojan Magnums. It comes to a point where Bianca's father, in drunken rage strikes her-and Wesley doesn't waste a second to deck the douche in response. From there Wesley grabs her and takes Bianca back to his castle away from her broken home.
This is from a guy that through the book never has shown any care towards his fuck-buddy, proudly proclaims girls chase HIM, and even calls the girl he's sleeping with fat, multiple times. He's got issues, and it's issues men have-he's just as insecure as Bianca is. See? I cared about this guy, because I have BEEN in this guys shoes.
Well I didn't have the luxury of sleeping with dozens of hot seniors, but I pretty much had his loneliness quality. Not only that, but Bianca makes the reader hate the guy and get as clueless as she is about doing him. It isn't until halfway we realise he's the one right for her, and (thankfully) when she dumps him for the perfect guy, the way he gets her back is NEVER too cheesy.
Which brings me to one more point: In his moment of vulnerability he lets it all out, and he doesn't do it in some irritating "I LOVE YOU BIANCA" scene.
BTW, has anyone else noticed Bianca's name is taken from Bianca from Taming of the Shrew? Just a fun fact.
In six words: HPV is very common. Get tested.
Bianca's best friend. Casey is on the cheer squad and always has an upbeat attitude. Her optimism is a polar opposite of Bianca's skepticism, and makes them lock horns on more than one occasion. As legend goes, Bianca got made fun of when she was a wee tyke and Casey jumped into the fray. The two have been friends since.
Casey has her own insecurities to deal with, namely being 6'1 in a school of guys that are 4'6. She's right-guys hate girls taller than them. Aside from that moot point, Casey seems to be the most non-cheerleader I've ever seen. She hangs with Bianca and Jessica, but really no one else (though I've had the impression people sit at their table). She's got the hookup to parties, but never really has the massive circle of friends you'd expect. Her interests involve shaking her booty at The Nest and bumming rides off Bianca, the only person who has a car.
Casey though, seems to get on Bianca's nerves at times. It takes the length of the book for her to find out about Bianca's parental divorce problem as well as the fact she's screwing Wesley. Those two facts explain why Bianca is so distant from them. Regardless, Casey is probably one of the most normal friends I've seen in fiction, and a refreshing change from the ones that either A: Get on your nerves or B: Stab you in the back.
Woman Reaction: Oh a tall cheerleader? I feel for her. She's so sweet to put up with Bianca!
Pat's reaction: A tall cheerleader? She's exactly my height? Hey Casey, when you turn 18, here's my number.
In six words: Bianca hates The Nest. Don't go.
Bianca's other friend. The circumstances surrounding their friendship are a bit more depressing. Before Wesley's penis was the thought of Bianca's, she bumped uglies with Jessica's brother-a high school student when she was 14. Now this already tells me he's a loser, but I guess he had a girlfriend also. Well when the girlfriend got wind of it, Bianca got cornered and threatened. Shortly afterwords, Casey saw Jessica getting made fun of by bitchy prep girls. Despite her history with Jessica's brother, Bianca became friends with her, though she kept the relationship secret.
Jessica is apparently super hot also-another indication that this duff business is in Bianca's head (and that she may be an unreliable narrator). We don't really learn much of Jessica in the book, as she more serves as a liaison during the "Casey mad at Bianca/Bianca avoid Casey" story arc. Other than that, Jessica is just 'there.' Casey does most of the friendly stuff and Jessica chimes in when appropriate or provides an alternative to a night of boredom or grounding.
Woman Reaction: Such a sweet friend. Wait, who is she again?
Pat's Reaction: Well, we can't have a hottie like Casey hanging with a Duff like Bianca and call it good. We need a third friend. Too bad she doesn't do anything.
In six words: Get a storyline, french kiss Casey.
A recovering alcoholic, Bianca makes it known that her father's last drink was sometime before she was born. It's implied that he does angry drunk things, which is hard to believe because he's pretty gentle for the first half.
But then comes the divorce, and at the sight of the papers, her dad begins to live the life of every college freshman who ever lived. Well, kinda. He buys booze and parties it up until the wee hours of the morning and leaves Bianca with the task of cleaning the place up. While she's complacent in the whole ordeal, it's pretty well known it's obviously bothering her. She keeps it from Casey and hopes it will go away while harboring hatred towards her mom for doing this.
During her dad's binge, Casey has always shown up AFTER he's passed out, hearing him snore and seeing the effects of liquid courage the next day while cleaning. It isn't until Wesley comes over that he finally reveals he's not a happy drunk and backhands his daughter. Wesley decks the guy and leaves with Bianca afterwords.
While this helped Wesley's character what's even more amazing is how her father admits his wrong doing the next day and even says there was no hard feelings towards Wesley for throwing his haymaker. That says a lot about a man, especially a man who just saw his daughter run off with some dude and calling her a whore for it.
Woman Reaction: Poor guy, he was so sweet. How can he do this to himself? Please, Bianca, save your father.
Pat's Reaction: Once Bianca went Bella, I was more concerned about the divorce subplot than anything else-and it was written very well. I was half expecting her dad to commit suicide which would be how we'd find Wesley's feelings for her then, but Wesley knocking his ass out did more than enough to illustrate his feelings towards her. There's some cheesiness in it, like pouring the booze out together (dear lord).
In Six words: Is that scotch? I want some.
A submissive bitch who leaves Bianca's dad to put him on a downward spiral. Bianca's mom wrote a book about self esteem...which then lead to her traveling everywhere and growing distant from Bianca and her dad. Bianca holds nothing back about her hatred towards her mom, though it's said in no uncertain terms she's beautiful (even confused as Bianca's sister). It all comes crashing down when she serves divorce papers and leaves again. While I give her credit for trying to be a mom later, I still can't forgive just how shitty of a parent she is.
Woman Reaction: What a bitch! How can she leave Bianca like that and make her sweet father go into a alchohol binge?
Pat's Reaction: Man, what a milf.
In six words: Hi, I'm Pat, wanna get coffee?
Of course in any romance we need to break them up and have them see other people, only to realise those other people are loony and they need their original soul mate.
That's the purpose Toby serves, however it's not without merit-he has some depth. Turns out Bianca had a crush for quite some time and was heartbroken to learn at the beginning he had a woman.
Of course, when he breaks up with her, all bets are off with Wesley (or are going to be) and the two go out. Bianca finds the guy perfect, but that's the problem, she's not wanting perfect anymore-she wants the degenerate Wesley. While the two go out for some time, it's quickly apparent she's going to get back with Wesley after all his advances. At the end, after he admits he's not over his ex, Bianca says "happy trails" and joins Wesley in an embrace. I can only think a possible epilogue went like this:
Wesley Rush and Bianca Piper:
Woman Reaction: What a dork.
Pat's reaction: What a dork.
In Six Words: lose the glasses, nerd. Get laid.
The Duff actually weaves a lot of stuff in and out through the prose flawlessly. For a first time novel, I'd say Keplinger has the whole thing down pretty well. Part of this is because I can only assume, especially by the quote under her author photo on the back of the book-that some of this is a true story. I can only assume Bianca is Keplinger and Wesley is some sort of life experience she had. The good part is whether it's true or not-I don't care-it's still good.
See, Bianca is a bitch, and Wesley is a total douchebag, but there's no fantasy here and no love desire that Keplinger wrote down to make herself better. The romance is a part of the story-not THE story. It's part of the reason I like this book so much. Yes, Bianca and Wesley's fucked up relationship makes about 3/4 of the book but they at least keep things fresh with other things in Bianca's life it never gets lovey dovey.
The problem with romances as I've said is-they focus on the romance too much. Here it's something that happens, it's not driving the book, it just happens along with Bianca's other dealings with friends and life. The same is in a Jane Austen novel since she tries to keep her characters fresh and doing something while romances are always brewing. This is why a guy can get into this. Don't like this romance? Well at least there's other stuff going on so she can't bore me.
Part of this is made easier by the fact that Keplinger gave Bianca a great voice. That girl comes off the page. It almost felt like I was sitting in a bar talking with her about this crazy boyfriend she had years back. Granted, like any girl she starts going into things that happened during sex, which I would have turned my ears off of (or in reading's case-skimmed through till it was over), but she just does a good job with Bianca. There are many books where doing the voice Keplinger does is not a good idea-this is a great idea, it's what made a great book and what can keep a dude reading it.
If any of you are looking for a way to write a romance, a good one, you'd be pretty well done to look at this.
Beyond that, Duff has it's problems. Keplinger has a tendency to over describe everything. IN the first chapter it flowed well when she did this, but by chapter 2 it grew ridiculous and when she wasn't describing something it went to Bianca's whining about why she hates everything. Simple trimming, but it's really more a nitpick than something that destroyed the story. the book clocks in at 277 pages. A short novel that tells its story, then ends. No padding, no fluff, just gets the job done. I commend her for that, I hate books where the conflict is resolved and we're stuck with 20 pages of loose ends getting tied up. Keplinger starts the book where she should and she ends it where she should. As far as trying to prove a point, I'm glad it was this. Will I read this again? no. Will I read another Keplinger novel? Probably not. She's gotta blow some shit up or have some government conspiracy before I can indulge in her writing again. But if I was stuck with this book and nothing to do, I wouldn't be bitching, it'd be a nice time waster and I wouldn't shut it till I was done.
It's tough to place The DUFF. For one thing I'm not the target audience. The romance gets Twilighty at times, the subplots are neatly tied up and everything goes back to normal with no risk of sacrifice from the characters (well besides Bianca dumping that tool). That can get on my nerves. Double the fact that Bianca gets on your nerves with her hesitant whining about being fat. Overall though, it's entertaining. It's not a cheesy sex novel written towards only women with men left in the dust. Yes, it's marketed towards the opposite sex, but the fact men like me could pick it up by accident and enjoy it should say wonders about Kepplinger's writing. While I may never read another book from her, she already is better than say, Danielle Steel.
Well in My opinion.
Up next: Not sure. I still want vampires. Or maybe a guest reviewer can make fun of my shit. Who knows.