This week I read both The Duff by Kody Keplinger, a "new to me" author and The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black, a perennial favorite.
I got The Duff for my Kindle because it was super inexpensive and there has been quite a bit of hype related to the release of the movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the story. "DUFF" stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." Early in the story, Wesley Rush, a womanizing type, tells our heroine Bianca that she is the DUFF for her friends and he is going to chat her up so her gorgeous friends will like and sleep with him. I was concerned that Bianca would fall for this guy who would cause her to seek a makeover and wham, bam: no more DUFF.
This is not what happens. While Bianca and Wesley do become involved, their relationship is more sophisticated than this. One of its strengths is they each accept the other as is. This is also the book's strength. While Bianca and Wesley struggle with family issues they become a support for each other in a sweet and completely un-saccharine way. It is lucky I had a snow day from work today because I stayed up much too late reading this.
Another powerful element is that Bianca's two best friends Casey and Jessica are true friends who do nothing but support each other. Nice to see a realistic portrayal of female friendships that do not involve trying to tear each other down.
I will hold off on seeing the movie until I hear how close it sticks to the book, but I am thinking I want to read both Midsummer's Nightmare and Lying out Loud to see if Keplinger's later efforts live up to her early promise.
It should be no surprise that I loved The Darkest Part of the Forest. I have met Holly Black and raved about her Curse workers series, and have only good thoughts about Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Iron Trial, which she wrote with Cassandra Clare. Again we have a story featuring a strong heroine who is flawed and real. In this case, she must work to save her town from the Folk who would destroy Fairfold in a power struggle. There's also a nice side of romance for Hazel and her brother Ben. This story really embraces what we mean when we talking about needing diverse books. The characters both human and faerie are not all white and straight, but the story is not about their differences, but rather about their experiences. And given my strong, sometimes negative feelings about trilogies, specifically the second book in trilogies, I am happy to say the end of this story makes me think this is a stand alone.