Ryan's Reviews > Uglies

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
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Sep 02, 10

Read from August 30 to September 02, 2010

I go a little crazy if I read more than one Margaret Atwood novel a year. I hope I'm not alone in this. I get the feeling that Atwood's sharp, but her writing is filed to a finer edge. I realized a while ago that one book per year was enough.

I have a similar reaction to Stephen King, though I'm not sure why. I really loved The Stand, but when it was over I knew that I wasn't going to read another of his works for a while.

At first, I thought this meant that I didn't like Stephen King and Margaret Atwood. Over time, I've come to realize and accept that I really like reading them, and there's no contradiction in needing to read other authors in between.

I am going through a similar process with young adult novels. I've read quite a few lately.

Additionally, I feel like I shouldn't like young adult literature anyway. For one thing, I'm too old. Undeniably, I often find the characters annoying. And everything is clearly explained to the reader.* As a teacher, I have perfectly satisfactory excuses for reading young adult fiction, but I suppose I should stop kidding myself. I just like a lot of these young adult novels.

Right now, young adult writers are very free to do what they want. I worry sometimes that too many authors stress over being derivative or unoriginal. Most of the best stories are stolen, and many great writers seem to excel at making people forget the source text. With young adult writers, they don't seem to be setting out to top their template stories. Instead, everything is an homage, an introduction, or a gateway for children to learn about those older templates. Since it's all for a good cause, it's not necessary to pretend like no one else wrote the story before.

(Or maybe the sorts of stories that I like to read are not marketing as well with mainstream writers. I don't know.)

In The Uglies, Scott Westerfield has fun introducing dystopian themes, weighing in on conformity and control.

Here's the premise: In the future, everything is provided for. Life is broken up into the following stages: cute littlies, awkward uglies (teens), gorgeous pretties, authoritative middle pretties, and late pretties. Thanks to a new surgical procedure, everyone gets to give up their ugly features when they turn 16. The result is a paradise, so everyone has to become pretty.

Although it means they'll always be ugly, some people choose to walk away from Omelas...

Not bad, eh? Unfortunately, the breakthrough surgical procedure reminded me too strongly of Unwind and the love triangle reminded me too much of Mockingjay. Westerfield resists the urge to use a first-person voice, and that was refreshing.

I've recently read quite a few dystopian young adult novels so I didn't enjoy The Uglies as much as I would have if I'd read it in 2011. It's my own fault, really.

Still, I've learned something about myself, which is good. Unashamed, I think the next young adult read for me will either be The Book Thief or City of Ember.

But I'm going to wait a couple months first.

*Gene Wolfe is the anti-coddler, in my opinion. He doesn't write young adult fiction, but I can't think of any writers that give their readers as much credit as Wolfe does.
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Reading Progress

08/30/2010 page 1
0.0% "Perhaps the last young adult read for the next few months."
08/31/2010 page 100
24.0% "Either I've read too much YA fiction lately, or this book isn't very good..."
09/01/2010 page 200
47.0% "Getting better. Left the dystopia. With the resistance. If everyone is ugly, no one is. Or are they?"

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Eh?Eh! I feel like I shouldn't like young adult literature anyway. For one thing, I'm too old.

I've been feeling the same thing about YA lit, but was straightened out by others...there are no age or acceptability limits except whatever we put on ourselves. YA books can still evoke strong reactions from the oldest readers.

Also, I liked this review's description of the difference between original ideas and original executions.


Ryan I liked that review too! Thanks for putting in the link.


Eh?Eh! Oops!, and I see you'd commented on it a couple days ago. I have four eyes but I'm still blind.


Ryan Eh? Eh! wrote: "Oops!"

For the record, that was an enthusiastic exclamation mark. Not an angry one.

I am glad that you posted that link to Sock Puppet's review. I'll have to expand my html skills to include hyperlinks.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Still, I've learned something about myself, which is good. Unashamed, I think the next young adult read for me will either be The Book Thief or City of Ember.

you have such good intentions but... i didnt like either of those books. and i'm afraid that if you dont, it will be another nail in the coffin for you and YA.


Eh?Eh! No anger was detected. :o) I'm sure it was a trying day for all when I learned how to post pictures and hyperlinks - at the top of the comment box, click on the "(some html is ok)" and you can copy&paste as needed.


Ryan Ariel wrote: "i'm afraid that if you dont, it will be another nail in the coffin for you and YA. "

Thanks for your concern, Ariel. Hopefully I'll be safe. I saw the movie for City of Ember, which I liked. And my wife says that The Book Thief is really good. So I have to like it.


message 8: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Ariel wrote: "Still, I've learned something about myself, which is good. Unashamed, I think the next young adult read for me will either be The Book Thief or City of Ember.

you have such good intentions but...."


wait why didn't you like the book thief? like four people have told me it was their favorite book.


message 9: by Eve (new)

Eve Davids I am confused, this book came out way before unwind and mockingjay, so that part of you review lost me. Are you trying to say he copied from them?


message 10: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan Hi Duchess,
I wasn't trying to suggest that Westerfield was copying Collins and Shusterman. But I did find Uglies familiar given what I'd been reading recently.
Hope this helps,
Ryan


message 11: by Eve (new)

Eve Davids Yes it does, thanks for explaining. I'm having a hard time getting through the book myself. I doubt I will finish it.


message 12: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Completely agreed about Gene Wolfe. I need to re-read Book of the New Sun a half-dozen more times, I think.


Robyn I appreciate your review! And if you haven't read them already, the book thief and the city of ember series are amazing :)


MyTeenReads It's important to remember that this was written before the Hunger Games series. I agree that the love-triangle is VERY similar, but if we're going to say who copied who, the Hunger Games would be copying the Uglies. Just saying


message 15: by Ryan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ryan MyTeenReads wrote: "It's important to remember that this was written before the Hunger Games series."

Hi MTR,
I wasn't trying to suggest that Westerfield was copying Collins and Shusterman. But I did find Uglies too familiar and predictable given what I'd been reading recently.
Hope this helps,
Ryan


Angela I go a little crazy if I read more than one Margaret Atwood novel a year. I hope I'm not alone in this. I get the feeling that Atwood's sharp, but her writing is filed to a finer edge. I realized a while ago that one book per year was enough.

I can only manage to read one Ursula Le Guin book a year as I've realised it takes me that long to digest her books properly.


LoveChica99 I suggest City of Ember I read it a while ago and liked the book overall, even though, the plot line is a little vague and the ending may not be as satisfying as it could be, but I think you should give it a try. Good luck with it.


Margaret Potts I feel the same way about Atwood and King Ryan. I really love the books I read, but I got to be in the right mind set to get through the book. otherwise I end up not reading anything. It's puzzling but I get excited when I know I'm ready to read one of their books. the only exception I found was The Dark Tower, but I was so disappointed I didn't read King for two years.


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