Film vs Novel – The DUFF

Mean girls and pop culture clash with friendship and first love…

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This review and comparison comes as a massive surprise for me – mainly because I had such polar opposite emotions concerning each, and the outcome as these two duke it out have bucked the trend…

The novel was both fun and frustrating; where the film was hilarious, engaging and intelligently comedic without being offensive.

I liked the sarcasm and comedy in both mediums. As well as some of the issues it tackled – like slut shaming. And the ending for both was pretty cute too.

My frustration came because some of the characters were stereotypical in the novel, and a little swearing that felt like it was included on purpose to give the book an edge… And its approach to sex. We don’t get any of that in the film. I know many adaptations tend to sanitise aspect of the book for a ‘G’ rating and wider audience appeal, but this time it was a matter of social responsibility. Additionally, the book is very much ‘white-washed,’ where we get greater diversity in the film. *hoorah!*

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I didn’t really connect with the written version of Bianca at all – her casual approach to sex at such a young age. It was self-destructive (and yes, that’s the point) but I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my nieces and nephews read this book in their pre-teens unless I could engage them in an intelligent conversation over sexuality and intimacy. It pitched the characters into situations they weren’t emotionally prepared to handle. I’m not naive, I know this situation can be very real and happens in a real high school setting, but I felt as though there wasn’t a strong enough emphasis placed on the decision to engage in no strings sex with a random partner/s. It was fickle and frankly, distasteful. The movie kept the relationships (minus the sex) grounded in something tangible, which added depth and realism to the characters and story line. I appreciated and applaud the topics ‘The DUFF’ tackles.

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Bianca spent the entire novel kidding herself – it was so frustrating. I literally shook the book at one point trying to get her to wake up and stop acting like a flake. Which is great that it is so engaging, but all for the wrong reasons. When I got to see her played by one of my favourite actresses on screen, Mae Whitman, I was elated. She was genuine, approachable and socially inept in a geeky-girl sort of way, more reflecting the age when girls grow up and become aware of the social mechanics of the sexes; as opposed to an ugly duckling story.

Wesley was just as bad with his attitude from the book. Seriously, if this is the calibre of teens and role models, I really worry about society. Couldn’t Keplinger have rounded them out with some redeeming features at the start of the book to stop me feeling like I was hanging out with a pair of lame-assess? Thank goodness the screen version, played by Robbie Amell added some boy-next-door qualities, making him likable and a more grounded human being.

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I did not appreciate the parental story arc in the novel – it lacked something organic to make it feel believable (for both of the main cast) and the plot twist, though I can appreciate the drama of it all, was not written all that well in the aftermath. The films twist on parental roles only enhanced the tone of the story, and added a much more poignant message to tug at your heart strings.

Keplinger’s writing style is pretty easy, but a little flat. For a teen narrative, and an ironic one at that, I was expecting much more humour, one liners and brilliantly timed coincidence… but there was none of that. We get it in spades with the film. The plot, though interesting and engaging meandered a bit and left the climax with a soft punch instead of some big dramatic event we have come to love in YA. Again, the film resurrected the tone and climax in true (if somewhat spoony) style.

I have already purchased the sequel to the novel ‘Lying Out Loud,’ and hope this will redeem Keplinger for me, otherwise, if I get another lack-lustre impression, I will abandon any interest in any of her titles for the foreseeable future.

The movie adaptation was sooo much more sophisticated, had better comedic timing and pop culture references, and dealt with the DUFF phenomenon in a much better (socially responsible) fashion. I don’t think I want to recommend this book to my friends, unless you’re a big book nerd and curious to see the origins of the screenplay to the Hollywood blockbuster. But a big nod to the movie. It’s everything a fun teenage comedy should be. Film for the win!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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4 thoughts on “Film vs Novel – The DUFF

  1. stslusher says:

    I LOVE this movie. Mae Whitman is a fantastic actress and I think the movie is so clever. Thanks for the review- I will pass on the book. 💕

  2. matxi_books says:

    I loved this movie so much!! I’ve watched it countless times!! Not because it’s an splendid movie but it’s fun, entertaining and has Mae!!
    I was planning on reading the book afterwards but I heard it was really different and not that appealing… So I ended up passing on that, so I guess I made the right choice!!

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