Friday, June 06, 2008

Pretties Provides One "Bubbly" Adventure

(Image from Amazon)

Tally Youngblood is living every teen's dream: She's gorgeous, has a model-hot boyfriend, and hangs out with the coolest clique in New Pretty Town. Like all Pretties, she spends her evenings bouncing from party to party, sipping champagne and following the newest "pretty-making" trends. She and her friends chase anything that keeps life "bubbly," whether it's a new tattoo, fancy eye "surg," or a fabulous stunt. Tally loves her Pretty life, but sometimes it seems as if her mind has been ... erased. Sure, she can remember her days as a littlie, but the months she spent as a rebel Smokie have faded to almost nothing. Perhaps that's why her life feels "as tenuous as a soap bubble, shivering and empty" (45). When a figure from her past finds her at a party, her memory flares. She knows he represents something important, but what?
As you can see, Scott Westerfeld's Pretties begins almost exactly where Uglies left off (If you haven't read Uglies yet, you may want to stop reading this review as it will probably contain spoilers from that book), but Tally has changed significantly. Having undergone the Pretty operation, she now has the lesions on her brain that make all Pretties dull-witted and docile. Her hazy memory prevents her from remembering why she became Pretty in the first place - to act as a guinea pig for the Smokies, who have designed a pill to erase the lesions which keep the Pretties' brains in bondage. When Tally's visitor leaves her a letter explaining all this, along with 2 pills, she balks - she doesn't want to be a "bubblehead" forever, but can she really leave her life in New Pretty Town? In a moment of panic, Tally and her boyfriend Zane each swallow a pill. The antidote clears her head, but Tally still wavers between the Pretty known and the Ugly unknown. Zane, on the other hand, can't wait to find the Smokies. The crippling headaches Zane suffers decide the issue - in a spectacular trick, Tally, Zane and their friends blow off New Pretty Town and head for the Smokies' outpost.
When her plan goes awry, Tally finds herself slogging through the strange outside world alone. With a little help from an unlikely ally, she finally rejoins her friends. Although Tally has left the Pretty world behind, she's still unprepared for the Smokies' Ugliness. The rebel group is made up of people who hid in the Wild rather than receive the Pretty operation - people with scars, zits and asymmetrical features. In other words, Uglies. Even David, Tally's first love, seems altered. Still, she trusts the Smokies, knows they are the only ones who can help Zane and all the other Pretties.
Of course, Tally's luck rarely holds and it's not long before the cruel, super-strong Specials arrive. With Zane too weak to move, she will have to make a choice - flee with David and the other Smokies or stay behind with Zane? Can she save the Pretties from their hazy existence? Can she even save herself?
I may be in the minority here, but I actually liked Pretties better than Uglies. My biggest complaint with the latter was its preachiness - the former still pounds its messages through, but with more subtlety. The book definitely explores important issues - individual agency v. collective thinking; outer beauty v. inner integrity; clarity v. mind-numbing substances; cutting to feel alive; the complexity of human nature - but action takes the front burner. Pretties provides as much heart-pounding excitement as its predecessor, rocketing to a surprising conclusion that will have you reaching anxiously for Specials, the next book in the series. Sure, there are some problems with Pretties - most irritating is the abundance of "pretty-speak," which gets old very fast - but overall, it's an exciting adventure that totally renewed my interest in this inventive series. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Grade: B+

2 comments:

  1. I liked Pretties almost as much as Uglies, but I thought Uglies had a lot more interesting moral dilemnas for Tally to face, and it camoflauged them better.

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  2. Ditto on the pretty-speak. It was enough that the characters spoke that way, but when it was the narrator using it also, that was a bit much!

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