Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.
But Tally’s new friend, Shay, isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. 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 the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
~ Synopsis from goodreads
Uglies is the first of four books. The rest of the books in order are Pretties, Specials, and Extras.
At first, I was totally put off by the titles (and the covers) of these books. But once I started getting on this YA kick this summer, I couldn’t stop, and all the good reviews prompted me to give this one a try.
Uglies follows a post-disaster US where the Rusties (our generation) were so wasteful that a new civilization of self-sustaining environmentally friendly cities developed. In this civilization, everyone is made beautiful, so that our current-day problems of self-hatred, anorexia, and all are banished totally.
In this new society, every teen at the age of 16 undergoes an operation to make them stunningly beautiful. So everyone is pretty, and since there are no differences between people, it is a more equal society.
The Uglies are younger teens (12-16) who have yet to undergo the beautifying surgery. Once they go through this surgery, they become beautiful and can go live in New Pretty Town and party all the time. Pretties tend to be self-involved teens who care about nothing but pleasure – drinking, parties, and so on.
Tally is one such Ugly, who is just waiting to turn sixteen so that she can have the operation. But when she meets new friend Shay, she comes to learn of a whole new world of people still living in the old way. And when Shay runs away, Tally is forced by the authorities to turn spy and find out where her friend has gone and turn her in.
The rest of the story deals with how Tally handles her dilemma. Turn her best friend over to the authorities? Give up her dreams of turning pretty forever?
I thought this was an interesting and quite a different premise. At first I was quite unsure about Tally’s character. She is everything I dislike in a person. She makes silly mistakes, gets into trouble, tells a lot of lies, and makes excuses for all the wrong things she does.
I went through most of this book liking the secondary characters more – Shay, David, the rest of the camp inmates, and I felt sorry for them knowing that their trust in Tally would be paid back with betrayal at some point.
So my initial feels about this book was not too good.
And then I thought, just because it is YA, why should the main character not have undertones? I mean, I would accept a protagonist like Tally in a literary fiction book, so why not in YA?
And once I changed that mindset, I found myself appreciating the way Scott Westerfield has constructed this plot and his character building.
That said, I can’t ignore the very juvenile writing style that is targeted towards the early teens, and I think the dichotomy of complex characters + basic writing did jar in a couple of places.
I mean the writing was so simple that my 9-year old daughter had no problem with the vocabulary at all.
She was speed-reading the book along with me and has quite liked the book, even if she did not understand some of the deeper implications of the story.
So the writing was a bit too simple. I was also irritated with the way the author bombarded me with his ideas. It was all a bit too political – how environmentally destructive we are, how self-obsessed and shallow, how hedonistic and careless, and so on and on. It was a bit too lecture-y. I think the point where the author keeps harping on Tally wearing sunscreen every time she goes out in the sun, that’s when I started getting really annoyed with this book.
What really changed my mind about the book was the fantastic ending. I loved how Tally owned up to her mistakes and really turns kick ass in the last 50-60 pages or so. The book also ends on a very interesting note, making me pretty vested in reading the other books in the series.
Have you read this series? What do you think about it? After a shaky start, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this one.
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon