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Monday, 12 July 2010

Review: Uglies

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Release date: 4th March 2010 UK (this edition)
Genre: Dystopia
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.


kirstylouise1984 said...

i love this story and your review is fab. I may have to read it all over again

Christina/Book Addict said...

I tried to get into this book when I read it last summer, but I couldn't do it. I brought the book to my classroom library and it was a hit amongst my 7th and 8th graders. So, maybe it was just me. I do remember enjoying the character of Tally though. Great review, Becky!

Lauren said...

I'm glad you found this so interesting, since I'm such a big fan of the series. Your review is really thought-provoking, and I kind of have to admit that I spent part of the book *wanting* Tally to have the pretty operation.

I hope you like the rest of the series too. :)

Janssen said...

Wasn't this a GREAT book? My husband just read the whole series and really enjoyed it too.

Rhiana said...

I keep reading about this series and the more I do the more I want to read it myself. Great review Becky.

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I'm in love with this series, you know. It really is amazing. I'm so glad you loved it!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Wow, what a book. Very creepy, in fact, I don't really think I would want to be made "pretty" at 16 to look just like everyone else. I bet the author drew these ideas from our looks-and-youth obsessed world. Great review! I love your thoughts about the book, the story really seems to be thought provoking. Thanks for sharing!

brizmus said...

what a horrifying, horrifying nightmare to have!
What I loved most about this book was the way it mixed so many awesome, great possibilities for the future with just a few horrifying ones. And this of course made for a horrific future.
And yet, it really makes you question, when you see how the others live.
Anyhow, I'm glad you liked this, and I really hope you'll like the rest of them. I'm about to read Extras. I'll look forward to your other reviews.

Robby said...

I LOVED this book. I haven't read any of the other books, but I really want to. Scott Westerfeld is a really great writer.

Becky said...

KirstyLouise, this often happens to me. I read reviews of a book I've read and I want to go and pick it straight back up because it was just so good. Thanks for stopping by.

Christina, what a shame. Maybe you are also freaked out by belly sensors!?

Lauren, you wanted her to be pretty?! Weird. I never wanted that. Not for a second. The pretties were so robotic. No likey.

Janssen, I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the books. Uglies ended on such an exciting point for the next book.

Rhiana, you should definitely take up this recommendation.

Sophie, I didn't know you were a fan girl of this series. How cool!

Irena, I love your very eloquent comment. I wish I left people such great comments. I agree it is such a poignant book considering how our culture is so obsessed with appearances.

Brizmus, yes the idea is horrifying and yet quite believeable. You can see how much it would appeal to people who feel they may have missed out in the appearances stakes.

Robby, I agree. Westerfeld executes his grand idea most rivetingly and with skill.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review. This cover is WAY better than the US version.

I Want To Read That said...

Okay I REALLY need to read this! And Soon. Great review:)