Kody Keplinger wrote her first novel, ‘The DUFF’, during her senior year of high school. The story of the smart and witty seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper, who is the Duff–the designated ugly fat friend–of her crew.
We caught up with Kody to have a chat about all things ‘The DUFF’ and more, have a read below and don’t forget to let us know what you think over on @maximumpop.
Where did you come up with the idea for The DUFF?
It actually started as a joke. After a girl in my school told me what DUFF meant – the Designated Ugly Fat Friend — I was so sure that I was the Duff of my group. I told my friends this, only to find that they were sure that they were the Duffs. So I started joking about writing a book called The DUFF, about a girl who was the Duff of her group but never gets a makeover. Any time something funny or interesting would happen, I’d tell my friends, “That’ll go in The DUFF.” Like I said, it was just a joke at first, but eventually the characters began to develop in my head, and I knew I had to write the story.
Have you ever written anything before?
I’ve been writing since I can remember. Literally. One of my earliest memories is from when I was three or four, sitting at my mom’s typewriter in her office, pressing buttons and telling her the story I thought I was writing. As I got older, I started writing real stories. Some I finished, others I didn’t. By the time I was seventeen, I knew that my dream was to write for a living.
Have you ever been a DUFF, yourself?
Oh, definitely. But I think everyone has. Or, at least, everyone has felt like a Duff at some point in their lives. I felt like one in high school especially. I was awkward, I didn’t dress well, and I was super self-conscious. Even now, though I consider myself a pretty confident person, I have moments of Duff-ness. I try to embrace it, though. Because feeling like a Duff just means I have some pretty awesome friends.
Do you believe love/hate relationships like in the book really work?
Honestly? I don’t know. I think it depends on the people and the situation. I’d like to believe Bianca and Wesley would really be able to make it work since they’re dislike mostly stemmed from not really knowing each other. Because once they got to know each other, they actually had a lot in common.
High school can be rough. Did you have to deal with the whole social hierarchy growing up?
For sure. I went to a tiny high school where everyone had known each other for years and years. So it was a little different from what you see in the movies. I wasn’t popular or “cool” by any stretch of the imagination — but I did have a few friends who were. Which is why, when I wrote The DUFF, I wanted Bianca’s friends to reflect that. She might not have been popular, but her friends were, and that didn’t make them awful people. I think the hierarchy and the cliques of high school are much more complex than we often realize.
What do you think of the movie? Does it stay true to the book?
I love the movie! There are some differences between the book and the film, but the movie definitely stays true to the themes of the book, which is what always mattered to me. Also, Mae Whitman is exactly who I always envisioned as Bianca. So seeing her play the role is just amazing. A dream come true.
Should we read the book first, then see the movie? Or does it matter?
I’m definitely more of a book-before-movie person! But like I said, the movie and the book are separate things, yet they still have the same themes and messages.
Any tips for struggling teens and DUFFs alike?
The advice I wish I’d heard more at that age is that everyone feels insecure. Even the prettiest girl in your high school has days where she feels like crap. There’s some comfort in that, I think. In knowing that you aren’t alone, even if it feels like you are sometimes.