Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
UgliesHer sixteenth birthday is only a few months away. Tally is excited. She’ll be able to join her best friend Paris again in New Pretty Town. In Tally’s world, when you turn 16 you have surgery and become Pretty. Right now she’s still an ugly. Everyone turns Pretty at 16. The surgery can’t be done earlier because the body is still growing and changing.
Tally meets Shay, another Ugly who was born the same day she was. They quickly become close friends, pulling senior tricks and hover boarding out to the Rusty Ruins at night. Tally is excited that she and Shay will turn Pretty at the same time. As their birthday approaches, Tally finally realizes that Shay isn’t thrilled about turning Pretty. She was happy in her own self. Shay is even considering running away rather than go to New Pretty Town. Shay has heard rumors of a place in the wilds called the Smoke.
The week before their birthday Shay brings survival kits to Tally. She wants Tally to run away with her. Tally refuses. She wants to be Pretty and see Paris again. Shay disappears, looking for a boy named David and the Smoke. Tally waits anxiously for her birthday to become Pretty.
But her life is about to completely overturn. The secret security agency, Special Circumstances, won’t let Tally have the Pretty surgery. She can have it if she follows Shay’s cryptic note to the Smoke. Once there, Tally is supposed to activate a signal, letting Special Circumstances finally locate the Smoke. Tally had promised Shay she would never tell the secret. She refuses to help Special Circumstances. But eventually they wear her down.
Scott Westerfeld has created a dystopia where everyone becomes equal. Everyone gets surgery to look Pretty – within certain parameters. Everyone is on an equal footing. New Pretties spend their first years partying. Later they’ll become Middle Pretties to take jobs, marry, and have a limited number of children. They have one final Pretty stage for the end of their lives – three separate surgeries.
In Uglies the world destroyed itself. The current civilization are the survivors and new generations. There are numerous Cities, but they are separate from each other to help avoid conflict. Children are taught about all the problems in the past and how that they are Ugly. They are allowed to play “tricks” until their surgery. Once they are Pretty, they turn away from tricks and Uglies.
Westerfeld has created a very believable future dystopic world. This is written for young adults but can appeal to any age. He has done a good job of separating the different worlds – the City for the Uglies, New Pretty Town, and Smoke, just in conversation, thoughts, and speech patterns. Tally is a strong character, believable not only in her desire to be Pretty but also as she begins to understand things when she reaches Smoke.
This is an excellent book. But don’t start it unless you’re planning on picking up the sequel, Pretties. Uglies ends strongly – and leaves the reader hanging.