Laura's Reviews > Uglies

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
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Jul 27, 09

bookshelves: scifi, boys, ya
Read in March, 2008

Uglies is the first part of a trilogy of young adult science fiction novels. Set in a futuristic society where at age 16, everyone gets cosmetic surgery to become a Pretty, a perfect, young specimen of beauty.

In Uglies, Tally Youngblood is 15 and anxiously awaiting her 16th birthday to be turned Pretty. Her best friend Peris has already had the operation and been sent to New Prettytown, a decadent city of endless shallow pleasure and partying for new Pretties. In her loneliness, Tally befriends Shay, a fun and rebellious ugly girl who is also just shy of turning 16 and Pretty. Unlike Tally and the rest of society, Shay is reluctant to be turned pretty; to look like everyone else. Shay tries to convince Tally to run away to a place called The Smoke, a rebel community where people live off the land and forgo the operation, remaining natural, and therefore “ugly,” for life. Tally rejects the idea, but finds herself the subject of some intense government investigation when Shay disappears. Tally is blackmailed into going after Shay and revealing the location of the fabled Smoke to the government’s toughest and meanest police agents, Special Circumstances. Remarkably, Tally journeys on a wild adventure to seek out Shay and the Smoke; to betray them. When she finds what she’s looking for, things grow more complicated as Tally begins to think beyond the laws of her society and becomes conflicted on whether or not life in her city, with its Pretty operation, really is the utopia she once thought it would be.

Uglies is a compelling young adult book in that in combines the right elements of fun and adventure with a thought provoking premise to keep readers engaged. The very first sentence of the book references back to the classic cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, which is sort of a good way to think about Westerfield’s trilogy. It’s cyberpunk for teens, with as much imagination and contemplation on society standards of today, interpreted through a complex dystopia. The book has the unique position of a young adult book that is tame enough for younger teens (and advanced tweens), but interesting enough for older teens and even adults (such as your’s truly!). Of course, as part one of a trilogy, Uglies leaves the reader on a cliff hanger, ready to pick up the next book in the series, Pretties.
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