Author: Scott Westerfeld
Release date: 4th March 2010 UK (this edition)
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Goodreads:
Playing on every teen’s passionate desire to look as good as everybody else, Scott Westerfeld (Midnighters) projects a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty. The "New Pretties" are then free to play and party, while the younger "Uglies" look on enviously and spend the time before their own transformations in plotting mischievous tricks against their elders. Tally Youngblood is one of the most daring of the Uglies, and her imaginative tricks have gotten her in trouble with the menacing department of Special Circumstances. She has yearned to be pretty, but since her best friend Shay ran away to the rumored rebel settlement of recalcitrant Uglies called The Smoke, Tally has been troubled.
After reading Uglies, I had a nightmare in which I was forced to watch my dad have his eyes gouged out. How very King Lear of me! Perhaps then, this shows the depth of construction of Scott Westerfeld's the dystopian world in Uglies.
A future when we are all turned "pretty" at 16 would certainly have its fans. Like Tally Youngblood, who is waiting for the day when she gets to turn pretty. In fact there is nothing Tally wants more in the whole world than to undergo her operation to be "normalised" and made physically perfect. Her friend Peris has already been turned and Tally feels isolated from everyone else as she waits for the day she will be transformed into one of the Pretties and begin her life in New Pretty Town. Then Tally meets Shay - another fifteen year old girl who is also left behind waiting for the operation - and they develop a close friendship. They share their subversive knowledge of Ugly tricks and challenge the boundaries that are imposed on all the yet-to-be-turned Uglies. Yet Shay is hiding something from Tally, she knows that some Uglies choose not to turn Pretty. Tally thinks Shay is insane to even contemplate the idea. But then Shay takes Tally to the Rusties' ruins outside of the town and tells her that she has actually met someone who hasn't turned. Tally isn't sure whether to believe Shay. All Tally wants to do is stay out of trouble and make sure that she gets her chance to be Pretty.
The concept for this book is so fantastically clever. The idea that physical equality can be medically imposed is enough to blow up a few of my neurons. For all its great idealism, being a Pretty doesn't seem like a particularly stimulating way to live. If anything, it sounds like a way to play at being a person rather than actually getting on with being one. All the Pretties seem to do is go to parties and get drunk. But this what Tally wants because she is indoctrinated by her society to believe that is what everyone should desire. Uglies believe that once the operation is complete people do not feel need to feel jealous of others and so the nation can live in harmony. They are educated in their schools about the near-fatal collaspe of human civilisation because of its greed and selfishness. The Pretty operation changes all that. It gave people equality...
The plot in this novel intrigued me and really held my attention. I found the beginning a little hard to get into because I was repulsed by the idea of a belly sensor. I have no idea why. It just freaks me out. Anyway, once I got past my phobia of that phrase, I became complelely immersed in Tally's story and loved every step of her journey. The characterisation of Tally was utterly convincing. She just wanted to be like everyone else. She didn't want to spend her life ostracised from all her pretty friends . And above all, she wanted to look Pretty.
The questions that this book raises about identity and self-perception are fascinating. There was so much meaning associated with the terms ugly and pretty and so throughout reading this book I felt contemplative. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Uglies embodies everything that a dystopian novel should be. A darkly riveting and thought-provoking read.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.