Keplinger, K. (2011). The Duff. New York: Poppy Little, Brown and Company. ISBN-13: 978-0-316-08424-6 Paperback-$8.99
The Duff- Designated Ugly Fat Friend is a realistic coming of age story about Bianca Piper who unwittingly discovers her real social status within her social group as the Duff or the designated ugly fat friend, the person who is less popular and more accessible than the other members of her social group who is exploited by other students in school to gain access to its more popular members of the group. While the truth is stinging for Bianca she quickly takes steps to change her social status within her high school. She forms an alliance with Wesley Rush the high school football star who needs to pass science to stay on the football team. In exchange for academic support from Bianca, Wesley gives her instruction on how to be less socially awkward. While the plot of the story maybe cliché the novel is entertaining to read because regardless of whether you find yourself in high school or whether it’s been years the act of labeling and ranking ourselves and others is a practice that everyone has experience with. The message of the story encourages the reader to define the labels that we place upon ourselves or that are placed on us by others in order to be confident in who we are. By the end of the novel, Bianca realizes that everyone is a “Duff” as long as they let labels control and define who they are. After, her plan fails to change her social status and gain the attention of her crush Toby Tucker who only went on a date with her to get access to her much prettier friends Jess Harris and Casey Cordero Bianca realizes that Jess and Casey are true friends helping her prepare for the homecoming dance where she reveals to Wesley that she likes him and to her surprise he does not reject or humiliate her.
I selected this title because I was impressed by the author Kody Keplinger who published the novel while still an undergraduate at Ithaca College. For anyone interested in becoming a writer it seems that Ms. Keplinger overcomes negative labels and beliefs that place doubt in who we want to become and be in our future. As a published writer, she tells stories that are authentic, relevant, and encouraging for young people and this is a great thing.
Lecesne, S. M. (2012). The Letter Q: Queer Writer's Notes to Their Younger Selves. NewYork: Levine /Scholastic . ISBN-13: 978-0-545-39932-6 Paperback-$10.99
The Letter Q is an inspiring, encouraging guide for gay, lesbian, and bisexual transgendered young people struggling in dealing with their sexuality, personal identity, in a social environment that relegates you to a minority that is different from everyone else. By the mainstream, you may be labeled a “freak” you may be considered a curiosity to others but these misunderstood labels by others create contrasting situations that only someone who themselves has experienced can relate to and offer any relief. Letters written by 63 celebrated authors including David Levithan, Amy Bloom, Brian Selznick, Gregory Maguire, and Lucy Thurber offer genuine advice and encouragement to GLBTQ teens by writing letters as professional adults to their teenage self. It is heartwarming, tear-jerking and whether the reader is a GLBTQ teen or not this is a book that offers relief in times of difficulty that may seem too overwhelming in the now from which everyone can glean comfort and support.
“The very things that seem to be depressing and oppressing you right now
will be the things that set you free” –James Lecesne
I selected this book for the GLBTQ selection because as an educator, I was confronted by many students who identified themselves as GLBTQ and found the label empowering initially, particularly in the current political landscape in which the GLBTQ has seemed to achieve human right status and empathy from other groups of society. Regardless of the strides that the GLBTQ community has made the unique challenges of GLBTQ teens remains an intensified emotional rollercoaster that require mentorship, freedom of expression, and this book allowed me to better understand the perspective of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered young person and is one I strongly recommend to all young adult readers.