Goodreads synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
My first impression of this book was that it was cheesy and typical and obnoxious. Wesley and Bianca both sounded super cliche. Like, seriously teenage stereotype-y. Both characters sort of gained more depth as time went on, but this is not the way to open a book, in my opinion. Even though she gets better, Bianca is seriously annoying. Besides the fact that half of her internal monologue is just the same shit repeated over and over, it doesn’t make me like her at all. I can’t have sympathy for anyone who so clearly thinks she’s better than everyone around her. Plus, you can only use the phrase “womanizing bastard” so many times before I want to throw your book out the window. (Even saying that once is pretty obnoxious, actually.) Eventually I began to see some uniqueness in the story, but it still bothered me because I wanted it to be less about Bianca’s relationships with boys and more about Bianca’s relationship with herself. And I guess it was, a little, but not as much as it could have been. Like, I think Toby’s character could have been cut entirely, and her struggle could have been Wesley vs. herself instead of Wesley vs. Toby. There were a lot of random secondary characters like Angela and Vikki and Jeannine, and I didn’t understand who any of them really were. Something sort of happens with Vikki at the end, but it was less moving for me because I hadn’t gotten to know her very well, which I think was due to the fact that there were too many characters. (Plus, I think I liked Vikki most of all, and that’s probably because Bianca disliked her so much, for all the wrong reasons, which I’ll get to later.)
As for the writing, there’s just a lot of useless description in this book. I don’t need to follow Bianca every step of the way from going to her locker after class to walking down the hallway to getting in her car to driving home to getting home. There were so many transitions that should have been implied when they weren’t, and it was really annoying. It reminded me of the first draft of my novel, which I guess makes sense because Keplinger was eighteen when this was published. (I want to say that maybe she should have kept working on it, but that’s honestly just me being bitter because I wasn’t published at eighteen. Although, that novel would have been pretty bad. Well, about as bad as this one.) I thought that the time indicators didn’t really match up with the pace of the book. Like, it was January, something happened, and then it was February, and it felt like only a week had gone by. There was nothing besides the word “February” to tell me that time had passed, and it felt weird. What was she doing this whole month? It only takes half a sentence to tell us that a few weeks went by without incident. That feels like it would be something that should be implied, but I really think it needs to be said, because time and pacing is very important. Another thing that bothered me was how often the characters used each other’s names in dialogue. This is something my writer dad talks about all the time, and I always tell him to shut up. I use names in dialogue all the time. I use people’s names when I talk to them in real life, even if it’s just the two of us. Every other sentence I say to my boyfriend has “Andrew” in it, but Keplinger goes absolutely overboard. This also sort of ties in with the unnecessary descriptions. I don’t need a character to say “Goodbye” to know that the conversation has ended, and I definitely don’t need them to say “Goodbye, Bianca” every single time they stop talking. It’s difficult to transition without transitioning, but it’s what writers need to do. It’s not f**king difficult to not say all these names.
All that being said, I didn’t hate this book. There were a number of elements that made it a good, believable story. Like, it could have been really easy for the author to be like, “Yeah, this semi-ugly girl just happens to be friends with hot cheerleader-types,” but she didn’t. I almost didn’t buy the story of how Casey and Bianca became friends, but they were kids that just happened to stick together, so I guess it made sense. And the part about how Jessica was the Duff until Casey and Bianca picked her up was really excellent. Also, I was really annoyed by Bianca’s “feminism” at the beginning, but there was definitely some character development with that. I was getting pretty tired of her putting other girls (like Vikki) down by calling them whores, and I wanted to shout at her, “You can’t call yourself a f**king feminist if you’re going to talk like that!” But I was so glad that at the end she specifically pointed out that her feminism was flawed in this way.
I do plan to see the movie of this book. The whole time I was reading this I was trying to picture it as a movie, and I just didn’t see it working. So I watched the trailer, and the movie looks absolutely hilarious. And like it barely follows the plot of the book. I guess I’ll find out.
I would love to hear thoughts on this from other readers! The copy of this book that I got from the library is littered with commentary from two young girls, which I thought was hilarious. One wrote in the front, “Warning: 16+ should read this,” and in purple pen underneath that was, “Or 10+. I’m 10 and I read this.” That honestly made this book ten times more entertaining.