Monthly Archives: December 2010

Yearly Wrap-Up: 2010

I feel like this would be a good time to wrap up the year*, and talk about the best books of 2010, and why I think they were the best, except that I’m honestly a little lazy, and I’m not sure what more I can say about some of these books that wasn’t already said in the review, so instead I’m going to compose a list of 10 great books from 2010.

In no particular order, my favorites from 2010:

1. Hot by Julia Harper

I found it on an approved list of books for an extra credit assignment, and I ended up tracking it down. I’m glad I did, because it was hilarious, and I found myself enjoying it, laughing out loud and anxiously waiting to find out what was going to happen– besides the predictable romance plot. One doesn’t read romances expecting un-romantic endings; it wouldn’t sell.

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

2. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

Sometimes impulsively-selected books are terrible, and sometimes they’re amazing. Luckily, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet featured a fun narrator with a great voice and a sense of humor. She felt true to her age, and carried the entire story off because of her well-managed perspective. (And it had a few Shakespeare jokes which I enjoyed, as well.)

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

3. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did. I knew I would like it; there were too many good reviews for me to not like it, but I didn’t realize quite how amazing it was until I was absorbed in it. I am definitely glad I took the time to read it; Bianca was a fascinating character with a brilliant narrative voice, even if she wasn’t the wisest character ever.

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

4. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

I really loved the fact that this was Rumpelstiltskin, but re-imagined in such a way that it was a totally unique story. I loved the world building, the characters, and the plot. I enjoyed the way the mystery unraveled, and all the things that happened along the way. It was a strong debut novel (and deserving of the award it won.)

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

5. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

I wasn’t expecting to love this book. I saw the cover and thought “huh, lime green?” but decided to check it out anyway. It’s not my usual fare; it’s sarcastic, and a little dark. Vera’s life isn’t sunshine and daisies, and her life doesn’t magically get better by the end. But her voice is brilliant, her story enthralling, and the flowcharts entertaining. I’m glad I took the time to read it; it’s one of the better books I’ve read recently.

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

6. The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked up Moon Called; I thought I might like paranormal romance, but I wasn’t sure. Soon after, I was reading all sorts of paranormal series; Cassandra Palmer, The Hollows, Kate Daniels, and Women of the Otherworld. I blame Patricia Briggs for being my gateway author, yet I love her for it. Mercy is amazing, and I can hardly wait for the next book in the set (due March 2011).

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

7. The Hero & The Crown by Robin McKinley

This is a perpetual favorite which I re-read for what felt like the millionth time, and I loved it just as much as I did the first time. Aerin is amazing, Damar fascinating, Luthe mysterious, Maur terrifying, and the story brilliant. I always read The Hero and the Crown and then The Blue Sword back-to-back, so in many ways they feel like a single book. There are, of course, people who don’t appreciate the brilliance of the Damar books, but they are silly.

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

8. Kiss Me Deadly edited by Trisha Telep

At the time it made sense to review this set in three parts; short fiction isn’t meant to be read in one gulp, but I’ll admit right now that with as much as I talk about it, it would be much more convenient for it to be in one post. Regardless, it was an entertaining, lightly romantic, and fun supernatural anthology, and I’d suggest it to anyone who’s looking for some easy-to-read paranormal stories.

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

9. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Another perennial favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, which has the honor of being one of the first DWJ novels I ever read. (Shortly behind it is the first omnibus of Chrestomanci.) Sophie is a great narrator, the land of Ingary is entertaining– your classic fantasy-land– and the story is mysterious and adventurous enough to keep you hanging on for more. The other two Sophie-related books, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways are also very entertaining.

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

10. Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Immediately after reading Kiss Me Deadly, I decided that I wanted to read more about killer unicorns, so I sought out Rampant, and then I found myself reading Ascendant (the sequel). It’s not often that you come across a book which manages to be unique without being terrible. (Admittedly, the idea of evil man-eating unicorns is either hit-or-miss, I do know people who didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.)

Check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

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Books which might have made the list if I were not so attached to a “top ten” list: Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, Beastly by Alex Flinn, Unexpected Magic by Diana Wynne Jones, and The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview.

Reviews t0 look forward to (from me, at least) in 2011:

Tortall & Other Lands by Tamora Pierce, River Marked by Patricia Briggs, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, The Eternal Kiss ed. by Trisha Telep, Corsets & Clockwork ed. by Trisha Telep, Matched by Allie Condie, and Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, to name a few.

So tell me, what books did you love in 2010? Which books are you excited for in 2011?

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* I’ve been trying to write this post for the last week, so I’m glad it’s finally done! (Now to write the monthly wrap-up for tomorrow…)

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Jane Austen in Scarsdale

Cohen, Paula Marantz. Jane Austen in Scarsdale or, Love, Death, and the SATs (2006). 275 Pages. St Martin’s Press. $23.95

From the Cover

Anne Ehrlich is a dedicated guidance counselor steering her high-school charges through the perils of college admission. Thirteen years ago, when she was graduating from Colombia University, her wealthy family– especially her dear grandmother Winnie– persuaded her to give up the love of her life, Ben Cutler, a penniless boy from Queens College. Anne has never married and hasn’t seen Ben since– until his nephew turns up in her high school and starts applying to college.

Now Ben is a successful writer, a world traveler, and a soon-to-be married man, and Winnie’s health is beginning to fail. These changes have Anne beginning to wonder… Can old love be rekindled, or are past mistakes too painful to forget?

First Lines

“Great speaker last night, right?” Vince Flockhart, Fenimore’s principal, looked hopefully down at Anne Ehrlich, head of guidance, as she ate her grilled cheese sandwich in the faculty cafeteria. Report had it that the parents had been impressed by the speaker– though half had left in tears and the other half had been digging in the bottom of their bags for Valium.

Thoughts

I do not know much about Persuasion, as I’ve never actually read it, and I don’t recall watching a film version. From what I know, the main point is that Anne Elliot is from a good family, and falls in love with a handsome naval officer named Wentworth. Because her father, elder sister, and mentor disapprove of the match, Anne breaks it off. Several years later– when she is beyond “marriageable” age– Anne again encounters Wentworth, only now he is a successful, rich Captain. Things happen, and Anne ends up marrying Wentworth*.

If Jane Austen in Scarsdale were merely being judged on its ability to follow the general plot of Persuasion, I might have been more impressed. It does a decent job re-telling the story in modern New York. There are difficulties– as there always are when “updating” a classic– and it is hard to explain why a smart young woman would let her grandmother’s snobbery prevent her happiness.

However, it got very bogged down with the guidance counselor aspect. Several chapters were dealt dealing with “the parents,” who were all certifiable, and obnoxious. Additionally, the children were as crazed and driven as their parents, but whinier.** It didn’t really add to the story in any meaningful way, rather, it seemed to slow it down and distract from the main plot– which was supposed to relate to Persuasion. As either a retelling of Persuasion or a romance about a guidance counselor, this would have done very well, but it seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis at times.

The story still managed to be entertaining, and others may (and clearly have, judging by amazon’s rating) disagree with me, but I don’t think I particularly enjoyed it.  It scores a 2.5/5, for managing to be funny, at times, but still not good enough for me to really like it.

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* It’s been around for nearly 200 years, so I’m not concerned about spoilers.

** Good Lord. It drove me crazy to read about this. I went to one of those schools where it wasn’t “Are you going to college?” but rather, “Which college are you going to?” and I still wasn’t that crazed. I had reasonable expectations, and had worked hard enough to be near the top of my class without trying to get a 4.02. I didn’t even involve my mother very much, and she didn’t worry, because she had confidence in me, which mattered more than whatever the hell the parents in this novel seem to be doing. It felt like a little too much hyperbole, and it may have benefited from being a little less crazed.

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Please Ignore Vera Dietz

King, A.S. Please Ignore Vera Dietz (2010). 323 Pages. Random House. $16.99

From the Cover

Is it okay to hate a dead kid?

Even if I loved him once?

Even if he was my best friend?

Is it okay to hate him for being dead?

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone– the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

First Lines

The Funeral

The pastor is saying something about how Charlie was a free spirit. He was and he wasn’t. He was free because on the inside he was tied up in knots. He lived hard because inside he was dying. Charlie made inner conflict look delicious.

Thoughts

There’s a lot going on in this book, yet it works so well together that it’s not overwhelming. There are flashbacks, point-of-view shifts, moments of contemplation, or difficult conversations. This book is a tragedy to its core; it begins with a funeral, continues with difficult introspection and self-exploration, and concludes on a note which is only slightly higher than the beginning.

Vera Dietz has spent most of her life trying to fly under the radar, to avoid notice, and avoid her destiny. She doesn’t have close relationships, after both her mother and Charlie betrayed her, she’s not looking to be close to anyone. She just wants to move on, to hold onto her job and keep her grades up so she can afford to take some community college classes when she graduates high school. Unfortunately for Vera, she has a lot to come to terms with before she can move on. She still hasn’t faced her mother’s departure, she never really accepted Charlie’s betrayal, and his death is real to her, but so is his ghost. She’s hiding behind vodka, and losing herself in work.

There are chapters from the point of view of the Pagoda, or Charlie, and sometimes Vera’s father. (His chapters are made all the more excellent by his flow-charts).They are beautifully balanced, and all of them add a little more depth to the story, building upon what has just happened, or what is still coming, and creating this utterly perfect, utterly sad story.

Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. I felt like Vera’s voice was perfect, and I couldn’t stand waiting to find out what had happened to Charlie, and how she knew about it, and why she hadn’t yet gone to the police with her knowledge, and why the police were involved at all, and what was going to happen with Vera and her Father, or work, or school, or any number of other things. Even at the end, everything is not tied up in one neat little conclusion, but it’s the sort of ending which is still somehow satisfying despite not being a neat closure. There is no happily-ever-after or anything, but it does end on a hopeful– if still a bit bleak– note.

It’s tough to read a book about death, especially one which is so very realistic. There are no flights of fancy, this is contemporary, real-world YA, and that makes it more tragic, and real. It gets a 5/5 for being just about as perfect as it could possibly have been.

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Love You Hate You Miss You

Scott, Elizabeth. Love You Hate You Miss You (2009). 276 Pages. Harper Collins. $16.99

From the Cover

It’s been seventy-five days. Amy’s sick of her parents suddenly taking an interest in her. And she’s really sick of people asking her about Julia. Julia’s gone now, and she doesn’t want to talk about it. They wouldn’t get it, anyway. They wouldn’t understand what it feels like to have your best friend ripped away from you.

They wouldn’t understand what it feels like to know it’s your fault.

Amy’s shrink thinks it would help to start a diary. Instead, Amy starts writing letters to Julia.

But as she writes letter after letter, she begins to realize that the past wasn’t as perfect as she thought it was– and the present deserves a chance, too.

First Lines

75 Days

Dear Julia,

Get this, I’m supposed to be starting a journal about “my journey.” Please. I can see it now:

Dear Diary,

As I’m set adrift on this crazy sea called “life,” I like to think of an inspirational poem I heard not long ago, one that made me weep because of its beauty. Today, I truly believe each day is a precious gift….

I don’t think so.

Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to think, when I first got this book. It looked interesting enough, introspective journeys and self-discovery are fascinating when done right, and the reviews I found suggested that it was done well here. Having read it, I can agree. Amy is lost in a sea of self-doubt and loss. She’s wracked with guilt about the  death of her best friend, and she blames herself for Julia’s death.

It takes a long time for Amy to come to terms with Julia’s absence, and to begin to move on. It takes even longer for her psychiatrist to really connect with her, and yet longer for Amy to realize that she is allowed to be happy, and to move on.

This is a complicated, quietly-sad book about teenage loss, and learning to live again after losing someone you care about. It’s similar to Please Ignore Vera Dietz, without the mystery, and without the shifting POV. Love You Hate You Miss You is about Amy, and everything is in Amy’s voice. Different approaches to a similar concept, and both are great in their own way.

Amy’s voice is captivating and strong, she tells her story in her own way, and it works. It makes you hope she’ll find some peace, and some happiness, and she will maybe heal. It earns a 4/5; it’s well done overall.

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Sorcery & Cecelia

Wrede, Patricia C & Stevermer, Caroline. Sorcery and Cecelia (2003 ed.) 316 Pages. Harcourt. $17.00

The full title is, of course: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: being the correspondence of two Young Ladies of Quality regarding various Magical Scandals in London and the Country, which I absolutely think was a brilliant choice considering their setting, and the tone of the work as a whole.

From the Back Cover

There is a great deal happening in London this Season.

For starters, there’s the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. (Since when does hot chocolate burn a hole straight through one’s dress?!)

Then there’s the strange spell that’s made Dorothea the toast of the town. (Could it possibly have something to do with the charm-bag under Oliver’s bed?)

And speaking of Oliver, just how long can Cecelia and Kate make excuses for him. Ever since he was turned into a tree he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone where he is!

Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives.. if only they weren’t having so much fun!

First Lines

8 April 1817

Rushton Manor, Essex

Dearest Kate

It is dreadfully flat here since you have been gone, and it only makes it worse to imagine all the things I shall be missing. I wish Aunt Elizabeth were not so set against my having a Season this year. She is still annoyed about the incident with the goat, and says that to let the pair of us loose on London would ruin us both for good, and spoil Georgy’s chances into the bargain.

Thoughts

Apparently, Wrede and Stevermer decided to play “the Letter Game,” which started out as a bit of fun, and turned into something which could actually qualify as a book. They cleaned it up a bit, fixed up some bad storylines, and bits that led nowhere, and got it published (originally in 1988). Despite its humble origins as a fun writing exercise, it became quite an entertaining mystery.

Cecelia and Kate are fascinating characters, cousins who are very close, and who were upset to learn that they would not be debuting together. Unfortunately, because of the “goat incident,” Cecelia was left behind. (Kate’s younger sister Georgina could not debut before her, so Kate was taken to London.)

There’s a lot going on here; Kate and Cecy have had unfortunate encounters with wicked wizards, and they know that something is afoot, if only they could figure out what. It’s fascinating to watch them work it out, as they drag you further and further into their contemplation of the mess.

It’s a fun story, with a hint of Austenesque humor, and a solidly built regency setting. It’s fascinating to see what changes the addition of magic makes to the society of the times.

I was in high school when I first attempted to read this; Sorcery and Cecelia had just been re-released in paperback format, and knowing how much I loved Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Caught in Crystal, I opted to pick up this book as well. I wasn’t ready for it then, as I lacked the familiarity with and appreciation for Austen or regency settings. I’ve since discovered a love for both, so I decided that it was high time to try reading this book again. (I’m glad I did.) There were a few times when I was genuinely laughing, moments of true puzzlement, and occasional distress as I wondered what was going to happen next.

This volume gets a 5 of 5, for being clever and fun without being too young, or stupid.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Romance, Mystery & Suspense, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

Secret Santa!

I was participating in The Neverending Shelf‘s Secret Santa, and was lucky enough to get two books I’ve always wanted to own:

Sunshine by Robin McKinley & Deerskin by Robin McKinley. It’s always very exciting to me when I get the chance to own books that I’ve really liked.

It seems my lovely partner was Michelle of Hooked to Books.

Thanks, Michelle! I can’t wait to read these!

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The Dead Girls’ Dance

Caine, Rachel. The Dead Girls’ Dance (2007). 238 Pages. Penguin. $6.99

The Morganville Vampires: Volume 2

From the Back Cover

Claire Danvers has her share of challenges– like being a genius in a school that favors beauty over brains, dealing with the homicidal girls in her dorm, and above all, finding out that her college town is overrun with vampires. On the up side, she has a great roommate (who tends to disappear at sunup) and a new boyfriend named Shane… whose vampire-hunting dad has called in backup: cycle punks who like the idea of killing just about anything.

Now a fraternity is throwing its annual Dead Girls’ Dance and– surprise!– Claire and her equally outcast best friend, Eve, have been invited. When they find out why, all hell is going to break loose. Because this time both the living and the dead are coming out– and everybody’s hungry for blood.

First Lines

It didn’t happen, Claire told herself. It’s a bad dream, just another bad dream. You’ll wake up and it’ll be gone like fog…

Thoughts

I was warned that book 1 was a cliffhanger, so I had book 2 at hand to continue. I would advise doing the same, should you choose to read it.

The story definitely shifts a bit from volume 1 to volume 2. There is some major violence, and quite a bit of angst and drama in this volume, which works well, considering the storyline. Things start to get more involved, and the end result is a story which keeps drawing you in, making you want to know even more than Glass Houses told.

Things are complicated by the fact that the vampires aren’t very happy with the residents of Glass House. None of them are safe, and it’s a difficult thing to read about. There aren’t any strong females, and none of them rise to the challenge. There is a moment of potential gang-rape, and I was unimpressed by the character’s inability to help herself at all.

There is a complete story arc here, but it’s clear that there is much, much more to come.

It gets a 3 of 5.

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Glass Houses

Caine, Rachel. Glass Houses (2006). 239 Pages. Penguin. $6.99

The Morganville Vampires: Volume 1

From the Back Cover

Welcome to Morganville, Texas. Don’t stay out after dark.

It’s a small college town filled with quirky characters. But when the sun goes down, the bad comes out. Because in Morganville, there is an evil that lurks in the darkest shadows– one that will spill out into the bright light of day.

Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. The popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks on the school’s social scene: somewhere less than zero. And Claire really doesn’t have the right connections– to the undead who run the town.

When Claire heads off campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life. But they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood…

First Lines

On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.

When she reached into the crappy, beat-up washing machine, she found nothing but the wet slick sides of the drum, and–like a bad joke– the worst pair of underwear she owned, plus one sock.

Thoughts

I clearly have a strong bias towards strong female characters, which are not really present in this series. Claire is smart, but she’s a victim; she doesn’t get revenge, doesn’t stop the bullying, and the violence, she just flees. There are definitely times when retreating is the best idea, and this book is full of those times.

There’s a lot going on here; an entire town is run by vampires, and most of the human denizens live in fear, and are largely treated as livestock. They are branded by their “protector” who has control over many parts of their lives. They are required to donate blood, their movements are tracked, and they don’t even pretend to have the freedom to leave. What makes them put up with it? Fear and complacency.

Perhaps because of the fear and complacency, when Claire gets into trouble, the only people who try to help her are the loners and outsiders, the people who nobody else wants; Eve, Shane, and Michael. Things start to get really crazy when the four outcasts realize that they can’t keep running, and they aren’t safe, even together.

The novel manages to be interesting, and relatively unique. Everything fits together, and it seems cohesive, which is something. It’s hard to read about characters who are victims to everyone, who never have a true victory, and who are unfortunately at the bottom of the totem pole with no hope of ever rising from that position. There are still moments of humor which lighten the whole thing up, and which count for quite a bit.

This particular volume ends in a semi-cliffhanger, so I would advise having the second volume on hand to continue the story.

It gets a 3.5/5; it’s good, but not amazing.

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The Seduction of His Wife

Chapman, Janet. The Seduction of His Wife (2006). 331 Pages. Pocket Books. $6.99

It’s not often that I come across romance novels that I feel are worth reading more than once. Despite the beautifully and perfectly cliché title and cover, this is a good story, with a fun romance and an interesting premise.

From the Author’s Website

Sarah quite willingly – and happily – becomes a wife, a mother, and a widow all in one week by agreeing to marry by proxy Grady Knight’s eldest son, and adopt Alex’s children to secure their custody before it is publicly known Alex is dead. But sometimes even the most well-intentioned plan can backfire on its perpetrators – which Sarah discovers the day Alex Knight comes back from the dead.
So what’s a woman to do when she finds herself married to a complete stranger? Run back to her tiny island in the Gulf of Maine, and resume running a Bed & Breakfast she no longer owns? Or put up with her very-much-alive husband just long to keep Grady Knight out of trouble, then quietly divorce Alex and continue her plan to operate a set of sporting camps three miles farther up the shoreline of Frost Lake?

Bolstered by the smart, confident, feisty heroines in the romance novels she reads, Sarah decides to stay and fight for her dream – all while fighting her growing attraction to her maddening husband. Alex, on the other hand, sets out to seduce Sarah for all the wrong reasons, but quickly finds himself falling in love with her for all the right ones.

First Lines

Alex Knight fought the fatigue weighing on his eyelids and brushed an unsteady hand through his hair in an attempt to wipe the fog from his brain. He needed to stay focused on the road ahead, to avoid the final irony of cheating death in the jungles of Brazil only to die in a car wreck less than ten miles from home.

Thoughts

It’s difficult to know what to expect when reading a romance novel; will it be the same old (winning*) formula with different names and a new setting, or will it somehow put new twists on an old story to make it fresh again? Sometimes, all that really matters is that there are two characters who eventually love each other, and who live happily-ever-after (or at least for now).

It’s not often that you start with characters who are already married, who don’t really know each other, and who end up falling in love. That’s part of what makes this so interesting. Add to that a sense of humor– Sarah reads silly romance novels which Alex discovers he enjoys reading out loud to her– and a few good characters, and what you’ve got is a funny, relatively-unique (for the genre) book which is solidly written.

I also enjoyed the setting; rural, northern Maine, in a logging town. I’m from a fairly small, rural town (which had its own fair share of logging after the San Francisco Fire). It’s always sort of fun to read books which are either reminiscent of or outright about your hometown, and this book was no exception. (It helped that I have at least a passing familiarity with most of the big equipment mentioned in the book).

Because it is a romance novel, which tend to have a low re-read rate, and I did re-read it, this book gets a 4/5.

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* Romance novels are a huge market for good reason; they’re nice, fluffy books which make you feel good as they set ridiculous standards for the behaviors and relationships of men and women. The idea of boy-meets-girl-they-fight-then-fall-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after may not be unique, but it is gratifying to know that you were right from the beginning, and they could be happy together.

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The DUFF

Keplinger, Kody. The DUFF (2010). 277 Pages. Poppy. $16.99

Clever, sarcastic, cynical Bianca Piper knows she isn’t the prettiest girl; she hangs out with Casey and Jessica, a pair of tens, and simply doesn’t compare. She’s not the sort of girl who grabs anyone’s attention, so she is surprised when Wesley Rush– a cute, charming, smooth-talking playboy– starts talking to her. Her surprise turns into annoyance as soon as he explains; she is the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) in her group– less because she is actually ugly, and more because she’s not as cute as her friends– and being nice to her is an easy in with her friends.

Despite her fury, or perhaps because of it, Bianca kisses Wesley, and she likes it. It’s a slippery slope from there, and Bianca soon finds herself in an enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley as she seeks to avoid reality. Things spin further and further out of control, and soon Bianca finds herself overwhelmed.

First Lines

This was getting old.

Once again, Casey and Jessica were making complete fools of themselves, shaking their asses like dancers in a rap video. But I guess guys eat that shit up, don’t they? I could honestly feel my IQ dropping as I wondered, for the hundredth time that night, why I’d let them drag me here again.

Thoughts

Bianca is the sort of character who jumps right off the page; she’s got the sort of voice that makes her seem a lot more real than most. She’s a sort of every-girl; average looks, a little cynical, a little witty, fairly smart, and a little lost. She’s not quite sure, sometimes, but that’s part of her charm. She’s incredibly relatable, and you’re on her side, even when you know she’s in the wrong.

I wanted Bianca to triumph, even as she descended into self-destructive madness, because I could relate to her on so many levels. I was the girl who lost herself in her boyfriend, who made her best friends jealous because she dropped off the radar. I was the girl who was hiding from reality, who struggled with issues her friends never knew about, who opened up to a boy before her best friend. I was cranky, crappy, cynical, optimistic, hopeful, and determined to just get through it, even when I knew I was escaping. When I first started reading Bianca’s story, I didn’t know quite how much I would like her.

Bianca is, as I said, self-destructive. Her story involves a lot of “sensitive” subjects; teen drinking, teen sex, domestic violence, and alcoholism, to name a few. It’s not for younger teens, or those who want a perfectly happy book. There are moments which I feel could have been handled better; for example, Bianca’s Father’s struggle with alcoholism. It (and the ensuing issues) were too easily dismissed, and it made it feel a little less genuine than the rest of the novel. The issue of teen sex is a difficult one; teens have sex. It happens. There are consequences, and they are very real, and they are not really faced here.**

Despite my gripes, I feel like this was a solid, entertaining, well-written debut novel which I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest to anyone. Needless to say, I loved this book, and will have to go buy my own copy.* It scores a full 5/5.

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* I got it from the library, having put it on my hold list and waited oh-so-patiently for it to be available after reading the Lit-Snit Review of it.

** I realize there is a fine line between addressing an issue and preaching about one, and the point of this book was not to preach, but Bianca’s behavior (as well as that of some other girls, and a few boys) was dangerous, and none of them seemed to think of the consequences. All that bed-hobbing Wesley did could easily have given him many STDs which any of his partners would risk, and yet the issue never really comes up. Even an acknowledgment, if not a full discussion of, the issues would have been good.

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