Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Uglies

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
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Dec 28, 07

bookshelves: ya, apocalyptic-or-post-apocalyptic, urban-fantasy, sci-fi, 2007, dystopian
Read in December, 2007

Three hundred years after an apocalyptic-sized disaster that reshaped the world, Tally is about to turn 16 and pretty. In her contained, isolated, self-sufficient city - just like all the other contained, isolated, self-sufficient cities - the operation to make her pretty will be intensive, extreme and, as far as she and everyone else alive is concerned, absolutely worth it. Once she's pretty, she'll go to live across the river in New Pretty Town and party the nights away, loved by all.

It's a shock to her, then, to find that her friend Shay doesn't want to be pretty, and doesn't think she's ugly now. Of course she's ugly - everyone's ugly before the operation. But Shay runs away to the mysterious, secretive Smoke where her friend David awaits, leaving Tally a set of cryptic directions in case she changes her mind and decides to go too. But Tally has no intention of running away: turning pretty is all she wants, so she can be with her friend Peris again across the river, and be noticed and listened to because beautiful people cannot be ignored.

But on the day of her own operation, she is taken instead to Special Circumstances, where cruel pretties with lethal reflexes bring her to Dr. Cable. They want to know about Shay and the Smoke and where it is located, but Tally keeps her promise not to tell. Even when Dr. Cable tells her she won't get the operation and be turned pretty until she does what they ask, she does not yield. Not until Peris unexpectedly visits her in Uglyville, and reminds her of the promise she made him, that she would be with him again, a promise that predates the one she made Shay. Latching onto this ray of hope - for she doesn't want to stay ugly the rest of her life - Tally is sent to spy for Special Circumstances and give them the location of the Smoke by sending a transmission via a heart pendant given her by Dr. Cable.

When she arrives, though, it's not that simple. Yes, the people are all ugly, and that takes a while to get used to. But there's something else about them, something sharp and clear at odds with the vacuousness of all the pretties she's ever known, including her own parents. And then there's David, who was born in the Smoke and is definitely not pretty ... but who teaches her that she's beautiful because of who she is, not what she looks like.

I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me a lot of Isobelle Carmody's books, her heroines especially, and also Ellie from John Marsden's Tomorrow series, and a host of others. She's a quick thinker, afraid yet brave, resourceful and caring, faced with a choice no one at sixteen would want to have to make. The writing style is clear and descriptive without wasting a word, the characters deftly portrayed. While the themes and messages of the book may not be subtle - nor are they meant to be, since we're talking about the structure of their world here - there are depths to the concept, and nothing's black-and-white. There are also little digs about our own lifestyle (we are the "Rusties" in the book - because what's left of our cities are just rusty ruins), about how we clear-fell forests and waste resources and genetically modify plants. The entire concept could have fallen flat on its face for being too contrived and as superficial as the operation itself, but Westerfeld holds it all together with a great heroine in Tally, a dark sci-fi underworld beneath the glitter and party fun, and an examination into what price we really want to pay for the things we hold most dear.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Trixy (new) - added it

Trixy before i read this review, i really wasnt even considering reading the book just because the storyline came across to me as shallow and uninteresting but somehow i'm beginning to think its much more than just a book about ugly people and "pretty" people.. great review!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) "Shallow and uninteresting" is how I think of those Gossip Girl books and ones like it - this is quite different! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Patty :)


message 3: by Belindabell (new)

Belindabell This book reminds me of the show "The Hills" where the pretty young and fresh faces of the original show are now the pulled tight, typically changed hollywood moster brats.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Belindabell wrote: "This book reminds me of the show "The Hills" where the pretty young and fresh faces of the original show are now the pulled tight, typically changed hollywood moster brats."

I don't watch the show Belindabell but I'm familiar with the actors and I think you're spot-on. They look rather ridiculous don't they? It's sad. Sort of funny but definitely sad.


Silvermoon How are book 2 and 3? Because I read a review that said this book was good but the others get increasingly worse. So I don't want to start this one if I'm going to hate the others.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Silvrmoon80 wrote: "How are book 2 and 3? Because I read a review that said this book was good but the others get increasingly worse. So I don't want to start this one if I'm going to hate the others."

It's a fair question. I've read the other two in the trilogy but not the spin-off, Extras. They were good but didn't have the social messaging of this one. They were more science fiction. When I read the Hunger Games I was reminded of this trilogy because of the super-advanced human modifications they seemed capable of. I think this trilogy is definitely worth reading. It's completely different to his Leviathan trilogy though, in case you were hoping for something similar.


Annie The second book, is basically the same storyline as the first, I was quite disappointed with that, I wanted something different, but even so the second book was still really good. A lot of people have said they prefer the second book to the first one, idk about the third one though!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Annie wrote: "The second book, is basically the same storyline as the first, I was quite disappointed with that, I wanted something different, but even so the second book was still really good. A lot of people h..."

I found the second and third books weren't as strong as the first one, too, Annie. They kind of became over-the-top and reminded me of anime or something. I didn't mind them, they were entertaining, but they didn't have the big impact or thoughtfulness of the first book. I'm loving Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy though!


Catharine I've already read this book, but if I hadn't already read it, i would definitely have chosen to read it.


message 10: by Ultimate (new)

Ultimate YA If you like this book you may love other dystopian YA novels! Ultimate YA did a dystopian themed issue a few months ago that may contain a lot of good suggestions for you! Here's a link to the issue if your interested! Subscribe for more :) http://www.ultimateya.com/past-issues...


message 11: by Ultimate (new)

Ultimate YA If you liked Uglies you may enjoy other Dystopian novels! Check out this article on Dystopian novels from one of our past issues for ideas for other reads! https://www.ultimateya.com/articles/2...


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