{Book Review} Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

{Book Review} Uglies by Scott WesterfeldUglies by Scott Westerfeld
Published by Simon Pulse on February 8, 2005
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 448
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Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license - for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever...

People have been telling me for a while to read Uglies. A long time ago, before I was blogging, before I was reading as much as I do now, I picked up Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps; I didn’t like it enough to finish it, so I’ve had a skewed idea of Westerfeld’s books since.

I’m really glad I picked Uglies up. It isn’t my favorite dystopian, but it definitely discusses an interesting and somewhat terrifying idea (lets be honest, it’s very relevant in todays society): How far would you go to be pretty? What sacrifices would you make to be constantly entertained and beautiful? And what is it really that makes people beautiful?

Our heroine, Tally, just wants to be pretty, like everyone else. When she turns 16, she will be. She’ll get the operation that makes you beautiful and carefree, and then she’ll get to move to New Pretty Town with all the other pretties and party until she’s too tired to keep going. But then she meets Shay, a fellow ugly who has different dreams for the future. Shay wants to stay ugly, but that’s not all; she wants to leave the city altogether and go in search of the mysterious Smoke, a place where uglies can run away to and stay ugly forever. But the people in charge of New Pretty Town, known as Special Circumstances, don’t want people leaving. When Shay escapes, Special Circumstances postpones Tally’s operation until she finds the Smoke and leads them to it. Tally agrees, wanting nothing more than to be pretty. But when she finds the Smoke, she realizes there is far more to life than partying and being beautiful. And there’s a lot more to the operation that the doctors aren’t telling anyone.

As far as Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic books go, this one is fairly pleasant. They always have supplies, water, clothes, transportation. It’s never “we’re out in the wilderness and we’re going to die unless a miracles happens”. There’s some fun technology sci-fi stuff happening, though a lot of that feels a bit like a commercial for Clean Energy. It was like, “wow, the people way back when didn’t use solar energy? How stupid were they?”

The pretty operation and the side-effects were certainly an interesting conflict; I’d be interested to see how that develops in the later books.

Tally has a HUGE development arc. She goes from being a weak, whiny, vain, materialistic, annoying kid to being pretty much awesome. Apparently a month of hard labor will cure any ill. Just kidding. She goes through a lot once she leaves the city, and she meets people who begin to change the way she looks at the world. She starts thinking for herself, makes her own decisions…plus she survives a lot of really rough things. Quite the transformation.

David, a boy from the Smoke, was one of these people who changed Tally; I liked David…but that was about it. Their romance was fine…but I didn’t feel much of a connection to him at all. I think by the end of the book I had finally reached a place where I was like “yeah, I like them a lot, this isn’t weird anymore”. I think this was partly because the way Westerfeld wrote the chapters at the Smoke, it was like “so we’ve been here for a week now” and you didn’t get to see that week. So you have to go with what Tally said.

The strength of this book is Tally’s transformation. And if you like Dystopia that makes you think seriously about where our society could possibly be headed, you’ll like Uglies. I’ll admit, I was skeptical when I started, but it really does touch on some serious issues we have. Great for fans of the Dystopia/Post-Apocalyptic genre.

4 Stars

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