Scott Westerfeld: Uglies

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. 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 a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever…

Oy Vey. I was a little dubious about the whole premise of this book, because it’s all about ugly vs pretty. When your book is aimed at teens, it’s not the greatest idea to build a worldview around how looks are compared…but it had a lot of hype, so maybe it had a good message? I picked up the first two books at a sale, and figured I’d read them for my Monday Series Marathon.

Uglies is a dystopia trying to be a Utopia–kind of like Divergent. Only once you turn “pretty” and cross the river does the city become utopian. Before that, it’s Uglyville–but, you do still have your independence and individuality. That, however, is seen as a negative–immature and deviant. Only once you turn 16 and have your first surgery, do you grow up and join the ranks of pretty party-goers.

The author lays out the rules of his world almost in list form. They aren’t subtle at all. Hoverboards can only fly with metal underneath, there’s iron in the rocks so they can fly outside of the city, there’s mineral deposits in the river so it works over water… It’s all very obvious, and I found it kind of boring to read. It doesn’t flow very well because you just keep running into more rules.

On the flip side, though, Tally’s trip seemed impossibly easy. Special Circumstances had searched for The Smoke forever and couldn’t find them…but Tally didn’t so much follow Shay’s clues as happened upon them by chance. Rule after rule after rule was laid out, but I felt like she skipped a lot of steps. I just didn’t feel like the world that was built was very believable, or maybe comfortable is the better word? Something didn’t mesh.

I still have a lot of issues with the ugly vs pretty idea. I get where Westerfeld is going with the concept, and I haven’t decided whether to continue with the second book. I might, since it’s sitting on my shelf already, but this first book did not impress me much.


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