So I can only imagine how people who read this book first felt when they went and saw the movie version last winter, “Uh, what?” The movie version of The DUFF isn’t terrible exactly; I enjoyed seeing Mae Whitman in a lead role. However, for all its message of “Everyone feels like a DUFF at some point,” it couldn’t quite shake the teen romance clichés. Also, the movie bears only the slightest resemblance to the book.
The main characters are the same—Bianca Piper and her best friends, Casey and Jessica, and the hot but annoying Wesley Rush. However, almost everything else is completely different and that’s not a bad thing. In the movie, the main characters banter and spar as Wesley helps Bianca to not be the DUFF in order to attract a guy she has a crush on. In this grittier book version, Bianca hates Wesley, referring to him as a “man whore,” especially when in the opening chapter, he labels her as the DUFF, explaining that talking with her will earn him points with her more attractive friends. As in the movie, this earns him a drink in the face, but here’s where things get interesting.
In the movie, Bianca has to put up with a motivational speaker mom (and her dad is out of the picture). In the book, her home life is more complex. Her parents’ relationship is crumbling and her father has started drinking again. It’s in an attempt to just forget her problems that Bianca first has sex with Wesley. It happens once and helps her to escape and then it happens again. Bianca doesn’t feel guilty because, of course, a man whore like Wesley doesn’t actually care about her, anymore than she cares about him. However, Bianca’s secret booty calls with Wesley are actually pulling her away from her friends and they’re starting to notice. Of course, once Bianca figures out that she is starting to have feelings for Wesley, things get complicated. This is also where the book falters a bit for me. In an effort to forget Wesley, Bianca pursues a nerdy but cute boy that she used to have a crush on, and how that all plays out is a bit too neat.
Still, I appreciate a book that is both frank about sexual relationships in high school and also explores the power dynamics in friendships. Though I knew Wesley and Bianca would end up together (this is only a spoiler if you’ve never ever read a romance), how they get there and the couple they are at the end are much more interesting in the book than in the movie. Sorry Mae.