Double Review : The DUFF & A Midsummer's Nightmare

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend 


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.

The DUFF is my first Kody Keplinger novel. And surprisingly (in a good way), I loved her writing style. Although the storyline is quite usual, the narrative is downright honest and feels extraordinary real to me. I love how the characters come to live under her pen, especially our heroine Bianca. She’s bitter and uninterested in the notion of true love but at the same time she plays the role of mother hen to her two beautiful best friends Casey and Jessica. She hated the handsome playboy Wesley Rush in her school, but a series of problems and scenarios brought them together, not as a loving couple, but merely as partners, if you get what I mean.

The idea of Bianca having flings with Wesley as a distraction from her problems kind of threw me off at the beginning. I mean, it would appear inappropriate in the East, where (premarital) sex is a taboo, much less reoccurring ones with no formal ties between the involved parties. However, the real feelings of love and care that slowly developed between Bianca and Wesley were sweet in a way.

I like that the author actually sends out some thought-provoking messages through this novel. Sometimes we unknowingly hurt others - we think we are better than others and some insult them like they deserve it. But the truth is, everyone has their own problems, it doesn’t mean that you can judge others just because you think you are better. After all, no one is perfect.

After finishing with The DUFF, I’m certainly up for more novels by Kody Keplinger!

Rating :  4.000

A Midsummer's Nightmare


Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.

Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger is another book with lots of messed up characters. Our heroine Whitley is a wild girl, always doing booze, swearing and has a complicated love life. I started out not really liking her, but in the end, I loved her. Her devil-may-care attitude actually comes from her bad childhood experiences of having to see her parents fight and file for a divorce, her mother complaining about her dad all the time and her dad always busy to see her. Everyone seems to have forgotten about her, and she is attention-deprived. Sounds cheesy, but that’s really something that can mess with a person’s mentality and behaviour, especially a teenager.

The story opened up with Whitley waking up beside a stranger after a crazy graduation party. Obviously, they did something real passionate after getting drunk. And Whitley was adamant to get herself out of the scene and forget everything. But it seems fate has another idea on its mind. When Whitley’s dad suddenly announced that he was getting married again, she was shocked and upset. But the real problem arose when she found out that she was going to have stepsiblings... I don’t want to spill the beans, but I guess anyone of you who have read tons of novels might probably see what’s coming.

Kody Keplinger has a way with writing about messed-up characters that actually makes you love and hate them at the same time. I love it that Keplinger is able to write about everyone’s problems with such dexterity and depth that sometimes I actually laugh out and cry along with the story. I hate that most of the people are so focused on their own troubles that they fail to see what damage they are causing to themselves and others.

My favourite character in this novel would be Harrison, a surprisingly handsome, good-natured guy who became best friends with Whitley. He’s the one who really cared about her and offered her true friendship. He invites her to come to his house for a slumber party, he saves her from almost being raped and he always stands by her no matter what happens. Seriously, I would LOVE to have a friend like Harrison – who cares if he’s gay?

A Midsummer’s Nightmare is a pretty decent summer read, and I enjoyed it as much as The DUFF.

Rating :  4.000

 About The Author

Kody Keplinger
Kody Keplinger was born and raised in rural western Kentucky. She always enjoyed writing and began working on "novels" when she was eleven. She wrote her first published work, THE DUFF, during her senior year of high school. Since then, Kody has written two other novels, SHUT OUT and A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE.

Kody currently lives in NYC and writes full time. She enjoys Thai food, Converse tennis shoes, and way too much television.

Kody writes for YA Highway, a blog devoted to the young adult publishing industry. She is also a featured writer for, a popular pop culture blog, where she reviews TV shows and movies.

You can find Kody on Twitter, Tumblr, or email her at

Book Review : Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

Anastasia's Secret 
Available on The Book Depository

For Anastasia Romanov, life as the privileged daughter of Russia's last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. But even while the rebels debate the family's future with agonizing slowness and the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of their love be enough to save Anastasia from a violent death?

Anastasia's Secret is a book that adheres to the history with precision (besides Anastasia's budding romance with a barrack soldier named Sasha), but sadly I don't see much imagination and creativity. The familial ties were quite touching, though. They stayed together until the end even though they knew it may mean imminent death. There was little appearance of the mysterious "holy man" called Rasputin, and the author dismissed him easily by proceeding quickly to his death. 

I had hoped the author would take a more daring approach to the storytelling rather than sticking to the safe zone. As the fate of the Grand Duchess Anastasia is still a mystery, I would appreciate it if Susanne Dunlap had injected a portion of her wild imagination and ended the story with a twist.

I would say that Anastasia's Secret is rather well-written, but there is still much room for improvement. And a kind note of reminder, the summary at the back cover of the book should only describe happenings within 50 pages of the novel. You never want to give too much away - always keep your best card until the end.

 Rating: 3

About The Author
Susanne Dunlap
Susanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for the adult market (Emilie's Voice and Liszt's Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Three are for the young adult market (The Musician's Daughter, Anastasia's Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and the forthcoming The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, New York and Northampton, MA. She now divides her time between Brooklyn and Northampton, has two grown daughters, two granddaughters, and is an avid cyclist and dog lover.