Tag Archives: school drama

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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Filed under Book Review, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Otomen (Volume 4)

Kanno, Aya. Otomen Volume 4 (2009). 200 Pages. Viz (Shoujo Beat) $8.99

The hardest part about reading series which are incomplete is that they are incomplete. You have to wait for each volume to be released, which can be difficult (at best) once they start dragging into the high double digits*. Otomen is an ongoing series, unlike Othello or Doubt!! which were both complete before I started reviewing them. Even more difficult is the fact that until they are licensed by US Distributors, many good manga can be found fan-translated, so you’re simultaneously hoping they do get licensed (so you can buy it) and they don’t get licensed (so you can read them online, instead of having to wait).

This all relates to Otomen because I had read a few chapters online before Viz published it, and had really liked it, but now I have to wait for it to publish on their schedule.

The Story So Far…

Asuka was the ultimate representation of masculinity until he met Ryo. Something about having a crush on her brought back all his long-repressed feminine habits; he cooks, he cleans, he crafts, and he adores Ryo. Of course, Ryo was fairly clueless, being oblivious to Asuka’s feelings for her (even if she is his perfect match). Juta, meanwhile, has been observing the two and secretly basing his manga on them.

Finally, Asuka got up the courage to ask Ryo out, and now they’re dating, which would be great, if anything had changed. We got to know a lot more about Juta and his family, and a little bit about Asuka’s rivalries, and status in the martial arts world. Tonomine especially is an interesting contrast to Asuka, making things extra fun.

In This Volume…

Asuka prepares to celebrate Ryo’s birthday, and spends some time with Ryo’s father (Takeshi Miyakozuka).

Asuka discovers a hidden flower garden, and makes a new friend (Kitora Kurokawa).

Yamato returns, and drags Asuka, Ryo, Juta, and Kitora off on a summertime beach adventure. Then Tonomine gets involved and it becomes a battle for honor.

Thoughts…

Otomen is a fun story, and part of what makes it so fun is the semi-cluelessness which plagues Ryo and Asuka. Another part of the fun is the way that nothing quite happens the way you expect, or the characters get excited over something which doesn’t go how they expected it to.

The “summertime beach trip” is a manga classic which is done well in this series, managing to be fun and unique while still staying true to the series/characters. I think this volume deserves a 5/5 for being my favorite so far.

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* I’m looking at you, Ranma 1/2 & Inu Yasha. You and I have a love-hate relationship. I hate you for taking so long to tell a story, but I love you for being so brilliant and for being my first manga.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Graphic Novel, Humor, Romance, Shojo Manga, Young Adult Fiction

Otomen (Volume 3)

Kanno, Aya. Otomen Volume 3 (2007) 200 Pages. Viz (Shoujo Beat) $8.99

When I first got hooked on manga over a decade ago (which makes me feel old, when I say it that way) there were really only a couple series, and they were hard to find. Even big-name retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble had maybe one or two shelves with manga and comics. I would spend ages looking for the latest volumes to the series which I was reading, and I spent $10+ per volume.

Now, even the local library has manga (though I have to use Link+ for some of them) and suddenly my manga habit is much cheaper to sustain. I love that it has become so main-stream, and that it is now so easy to get fun, cute stories like Otomen.

The Story So Far…

Asuka Masamune lives a double life; he loves cute, sweet, girly things, he’s a great cook, and a talented crafter, he’s an Otomen, a girly-guy. Yet, he’s also the captain of the Kendo club, and is ranked nationally. In his day-to-day life, he strives to be the perfect man, and he mostly succeeds, at great personal expense.

Seemingly by accident, Asuka ends up making friends with Ryo Miyakozuka and Juta Tachibana. This is partially because Asuka has a major crush on Ryo, and partially because Juta has decided to base his manga on their story.* Asuka and Ryo seem destined to be together; Ryo is a manly girl** who fails at anything womanly, and so Asuka completes her.

In This Volume

Asuka helps Ryo out at a friend’s daycare. They finally go on a successful date to an amusement park, and finally, we meet Hajime Tonomine, Asuka’s kendo rival.

Thoughts

Having gotten the cliche “arranged marriage” story out of the way in volume 2, the rest of the series seems ready to move on to original (or at least more original) stories. Asuka is an endearing character who you can’t help rooting for, even when his only problem is his own fear.

The first story in this volume was very cute, as Asuka tried to help out at Ryo’s daycare, and found himself struggling, because he simultaneously wanted to be a good, fun sensei, and an ideal man, two concepts which he could not balance. Ultimately, things end up working out (as they always do) and Asuka seems to learn a bit from it.

As a whole, I like this series a lot, and I thought that this volume was very good. It gets a 4.5/5

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* Juta is apparently an established manga-ka, and is, in fact, the author of Asuka’s favorite series.

** Interesting that there is a name for a girly-boy, but no name for a boyish-girl.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Graphic Novel, Romance, Shojo Manga, Young Adult Fiction