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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Not Quite Up to the Hype, But Uglies Makes For An Exciting Read

What would you do to be stunningly gorgeous? Undergo a painful operation? Donate a few
brain cells to science? Betray your best friend? These are all dilemmas Tally Youngblood must face in Scott Westerfeld's young adult novel, Uglies.
Tally lives in a future world where all 16-year-olds undergo an operation that turns them from an "Ugly" nobody into a model-perfect "Pretty." Fifteen-year-old Tally has been looking forward to this operation her whole life; she can't wait for the procedure that will erase all her imperfect features and turn her into a knockout. She longs to live in New Pretty Town, where the Pretties spend their lives partying and having fun. When Tally's best friend Peris turns Pretty, she suffers from the most bitter loneliness she's ever known. Determined to find her friend, Tally sneaks into the Pretty part of town only to find that Peris has changed into someone she doesn't recognize - in more ways than one. Once she turns Pretty, she knows they will be able to reconnect. The question is, what in the world is she going to do until then?
The answer arrives in the form of Shay, another Ugly on the brink of her 16th birthday. Shay loves a rush almost as much as Tally. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with, hoverboarding and playing tricks on the incoming Uglies. Tally assumes that they will continue their antics as Pretties, but Shay isn't so sure. In fact, Shay doesn't want to become a Pretty at all. She's happy with her face, happy to be different. She urges Tally to run away with her to a secret colony called The Smoke, where Uglies live freely, hiding from authorities that want to force them to be Pretty.

Although Tally wants to support her friend, she also wants desperately to become a Pretty. Only one thing stands in her way: Shay. Special Circumstances, a special branch of the government, informs Tally that she will not get the operation unless she helps them find Shay and the group of rebels with whom she's now associated. Tally reluctantly takes on the assignment. She's not prepared, however, for what she finds - or who she meets - in The Smoke. Torn between her desire to be Pretty and her new friends, Tally must make dangerous decisions that could jeopardize them all. At the heart of it all looms the question - How far will she go to be Pretty?

I thought the idea of this novel was really interesting, but I didn't end up liking the story as much as I thought I would. The action kept it exciting, but the characters felt flat to me. It also felt a little preachy, like the moral questions were more important to Westerfield than the story. I found myself comparing this author to Margaret Peterson Haddix, who writes on similar themes, but puts the story first, letting her moral questions leak out subtly. I prefer the subtlety. Still, this was a good read. I didn't think it lived up to its hype, but it was good.

Grade: B


  1. I agree with you on the lack of subtelty (sp?) -- it was almost as if the cool action scenes on the hoverboards took priority... but a fast, entertaining read, and provides lots of topics for discussion... I am interested in picking up the sequel.

    Great blog!

  2. i really liked Uglies, but i didn't enjoy Pretties as much. do you plan to read it? i plan to read Specials and Extras too.

  3. alison - I do plan to read the rest of the series. In fact, I was convinced that I would like the series, so I bought all the books!


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