Absolutely the WORST of the three books (not that any of them were great literature). These I read purely for the entertainment value, but this to me...moreAbsolutely the WORST of the three books (not that any of them were great literature). These I read purely for the entertainment value, but this to me was just trivial and the concept is tired - there was nothing of value in this one - not even entertainment.
May I just explicate my greatest pet peeve? We are hundreds of pages into the third book about Robert Langdon... and Dan Brown insists on referring to him as "Robert Langdon." Oh, Dan Brown. Does everyone call you "Dan Brown," Dan Brown? I wonder, Dan Brown, in what part of the English-speaking world that people call each other by their entire names year after year after year. Dan Brown, does Robert Langdon not know that his full name is Robert Langdon? Have you yourself not figured it out yet, Dan Brown? Or perhaps you think that your audience has the memory of a goldfish and might get confused because of all of the Roberts and Langdons in the book. Dan Brown... please stop referring to your characters by their full names.(less)
Really, this deserves a 2.5 from me. Damn you, Goodreads! Where are the half-stars? (Also, I apologise if this review is a bit scattered as I've been...moreReally, this deserves a 2.5 from me. Damn you, Goodreads! Where are the half-stars? (Also, I apologise if this review is a bit scattered as I've been pecking at it for a few days and still feel a little unsure on my true views towards this book.)
Despite my absolute boredom with this washed-out and boring plot that I have seen or read more times than I care to think about (Friendship! Betrayal! Romance! No Betrayal! Accidental Betrayal! HORROR! Forgiveness!), I did find the subject matter of this book intriguing which is why I picked up a copy in the first place. I love a good social commentary, but this left me out to dry. I’m not sure if its because it was the first book of a series (which is understandable, but not forgivable – the first book in a series should be strong enough to stand on its own, in my humble opinion), or that Westerfeld himself didn’t have any answers to the questions he was asking. Perhaps I’ll just continue to hope that those answers are in the following books and never read them so I’m not disappointed.
Overall, this was a quick read (it took me a few hours) and it is worth contemplating how we might counter the beauty culture that we are saturated in (and where – in an extreme world – we might be headed), but there is part of this book that simply falls flat when it could have been extremely profound. I’m inclined to think that Nip/Tuck is more useful, perhaps because it’s ironic, and also because it’s difficult to present a commentary on visual culture in a written book.
There are several problems with this book (and I reserve the right to add to this list should I continue the series) beyond the prosaic plot:
1) Social commentary is great, but offering a commentary is fairly worthless if no solutions are presented. Yes, we live in a society where beauty is over-valued, but what are we supposed to do about it – go live on the mountainside and eat rabbit stew? In fairness, social commentary can stand on its own if there is a natural progression both towards and away from the extreme content (and it doesn’t have to be explicit). Westerfeld gives us progression towards this dystopic world, but there is no way out. In fact, despite countering the problem he is addressing (beauty gone mad), he actually reaffirms it. Case in point: after Tally ends up with the Smokies, David (eventually) tells her that he thinks she is beautiful. Is this not the same problem all over again? When two Uglies (Smokies?) find each other beautiful and feel the need to express it and be validated by it, it seems that they are committing the same sins they are attempting to escape. If beauty shouldn’t matter, then... well... beauty shouldn’t matter, and even the Smokies seem fairly unconvinced that it shouldn’t (the point being that beauty does matter, I suppose). Even though the reason they left was to get away from it. I’m so confused!
2) The labelling is really horrendous. Beyond Uglyville and New Pretty Town (both of which sound so ridiculous, I cannot even take the story seriously), I’m unclear on Westerfeld’s purpose in such simplistic referents. I suppose his intention is to show how calling oneself (or others) “ugly” or “pretty” can truly shape the way that person seems themselves, and also as an effort to point out the absurdity of such labels, but it just seemed ridiculous.
3) I couldn’t identify with Tally (and actually found her rather annoying until the last few chapters). I never cared about being beautiful, I never wanted to find some random boy who would like me, and I wasn’t rebellious. I think part of the issue here may be that Westerfeld doesn’t know what it’s like to be a teenaged girl, or maybe it’s just that I have nothing in common with Tally as I was never that kind of teenager myself. I actually think I might have preferred this had she been a few years older – say 18 or 19 (additionally, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be doing plastic surgery on everyone once they’ve reached their 16th birthday as many teenagers continue to change until their late-teens, early-twenties, just as many of us are done growing much earlier). In any case, Tally was not terribly likeable, and while I’ve certainly read my share of books with protagonists I didn’t like, they usually had other characters I liked enough to keep my interest. The only person in the book I would have liked to learn more about was Maddy (whom we barely meet).
4) The visualization for this book was mostly absent. I have no idea if all of the Uglies were actually ugly (presumably not). On the other hand, perhaps it is ingenious to have characters whose identities are irrevocably attached to their looks remain invisible.
5) Westerfeld failed to discuss any issues of embodiment, which I personally think would have added a great deal to this book. As society “advances,” we seem to become less and less attached not only to the world, but to our own bodies. Rather than focusing only on looks (which is one of the reasons I feel this book is a bit flat), a discussion of bodies (i.e., what it means to be embodied, what happens when we reject our bodies, etc.) could have offered a lot of interest, and perhaps an issue we – as readers – are better equipped to address.
Ultimately, these books needed a good dose of satire, and perhaps an explanation on why the society in question is not either altering genetic codes to make beautiful babies, or sterilizing truly ugly people (which seems to be a more realistic, if not equally disturbing, path), or matching up couples based on how their offspring will look. (less)
FYI: This edition of the book actually has over 400 pages, Goodreads.
I didn’t feel this was a strong novel. I wanted to like it (truly), but I just co...moreFYI: This edition of the book actually has over 400 pages, Goodreads.
I didn’t feel this was a strong novel. I wanted to like it (truly), but I just couldn’t care. The characters were largely underdeveloped on the page, and the forward motion was jumpy and jarring. The set-up was also poor with no real conflict until 50 pages in. Additionally, people raving over Wright’s ability to write women well is exaggerated: any man can write women just as any woman can write men, and there was nothing astonishing about any of his representations – I actually found Nora to be far too flighty to be taken seriously, and his propensity to have Clara be sentimental and not say anything in order to appear non-sentimental was just bizarre.
I was happy that he didn't linger over her abortion - too many people sit around thinking that all women regret such things. But. It was just as annoying for her to have zero reaction to it. Perhaps it wasn't unrealistic, but one would think she would think about it and have SOME feeling towards it.
The rape was also bizarre: who is brutally raped in a field and goes home to journal about it IN DETAIL?! I can't imagine, although maybe it's possible. I think it would have been more poignant to not have that scene, and for us to only suspect the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy given what she had says in later entries until the year anniversary where she "writes" Charlie a letter.
I think that ultimately, I found this story unbelievable, and the jacket did not accurately describe the novel, so my expectations were far from filled. This is not a story about the 1930s - you barely notice the depression, and most of the other events are piteously underrepresented. It could have happened today. Perhaps this is part of the appeal for some, but I just found it sloppy and dull.(less)
Perhaps I need to reread this to remember my first impression, but one thing that really gets me about this book is my inability to like the protagoni...morePerhaps I need to reread this to remember my first impression, but one thing that really gets me about this book is my inability to like the protagonist. At all. Ever. In any way. Aren't we supposed to care? I did enjoy the story, but I couldn't get over my dislike of Amir.