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Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Tally’s adventures begin in Uglies, where she learns the truth about what life as a Pretty really means. She rebels against the surgery that will make her a Pretty, but ultimately succumbs. In Pretties, Tally has forgotten all about her Ugly life, and when she’s reminded, she has a hard time listening. And what little’s left of the old Tally is further compromised in Specials, because Tally has been transformed into a fierce fighting machine. But when she’s offered a chance to forever improve civilization, will she be able to overcome her brainwashing? The answer is evident years later in Extras, after the Pretty regime has ended. Boundless human creativity, new technologies, and old dangers have been unleashed upon the world. But fame and popularity can be just as dangerous as extreme beauty….

Tally Youngblood is an ugly who only wishes to be pretty. Every adolescent ‘ugly’ has to wait until their 16th birthday in order to be whisked into surgery for their perfect plastic body and new life across the bridge in New Pretty Town. Life is bubbly, fabulous, and the possibilities are endless for the perfectly pretty people who are gorgeous and innocent in every way. 

All of Tally’s friends have left her behind to kill the last few months in Uglyville, ugly and alone. Time seems to tick away much faster when her new friend Shay appears just as alone and ugly as Tally herself. The two girls quickly become friends and spend the summer together playing tricks and avoiding the topic of turning pretty and New Pretty Town since Shay is not entirely convinced turning pretty is what she wants. When Tally and Shay have run out of tricks to share with one another, they decide to explore outside the city limits, including the Rusty Ruins. After feeling as if they have explored every corner of the Earth, Shay tells Tally there is another city out there, nothing like their current bubble of a city. The Smoke is a city for runaway uglies who do not want to become pretty. Shay is one of those uglies and wants Tally to come with her.

Tally decides to stay and become pretty, the original plan all along. When Tally is informed that her surgery was cancelled due to the fact that Shay is missing and Tally must help Special Circumstances find her, Tally will do anything to become pretty even if it means finding the Smoke and deceiving Shay. 

The first book of the Uglies series is an excellent start to a futuristic civilization that is focused on control through outer beauty and physical characteristics, rather than features such as strength or intelligence. You could almost say that the author’s depiction of this civilization is a twisted form of segregation, but in a positive way since our society views perfect beauty as a dream or inspiration. I enjoyed this book because it applies to every adolescent or even young adult who grew up in this millennium being forced to know that society and our peers view us as ugly, insignificant beings that are too young to understand the world until we are older and much “prettier.” At first I thought that the novel was a little long in terms of the amount of details and descriptions of characters, but as the plot progressed I realized that this demonstrates strength for the beginning of the series rather than a weakness since there is so much physical beauty in nature and in the characters. Also, the descriptions and titles of cities and objects, characters and professions are all simple and to the point, which is refreshing to see in a novel. 

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys an uprising and inspirational female lead character to invoke change based on her ability to stand out without trying. I enjoy authors that create an alternate reality or future reality based on the bad habits and mistakes we are making today because they are not all fictional, they are all possibilities. 

Reviewed by Nicole Williams

Book Information
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 5/3/2011
Pages: 432

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