"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: Dystopian YA novel about the power of being Ugly and the danger of being Pretty. 

Remember that old Twilight Zone episode where the beautiful woman wants to look like everyone else? Remember that TV show The Swan?  In New Pretty Town, everybody looks like themselves, only better, but they also look like everyone else.

Pretty people have it easy. They don’t have to worry about anything.
That’s why it’s mandatory for all citizens of New Pretty Town to have the operation at age 16. Until the operation, all people are ugly. Therefore, their brains and personalities must be ugly too.

In this YA dystopian novel, the Rusties’ civilization was destroyed years ago when someone created a bacteria that infected oil. Since nearly everything ran on petroleum, the Rusties were completely unable to function. A few smart scientists created an operation to make people Pretty at age 16. Once people are Pretty, they lose the urge to fight, to take revenge, to steal, to plunder, to treat the Earth poorly. The Rusties' behavior was Ugly and so were their faces.

Tally is only a few months away from her pretty operation and she’s lonely for her friend Peris who’s already been made Pretty. During a secret visit to Peris in New Pretty Town, Ugly Tally is a little worried that Peris is not as much fun as he used to be. Peris doesn’t worry about the same things they used to when they were both Uglies. That’s because being Pretty is fun. So Peris tells Tally just to behave and wait for her operation so they can be Pretty friends together.

But Tally is still playing tricks, waiting until her operation. Lonely, she meets Shay, who's also waiting for her operation. Shay is not nearly as excited to have her operation, and Tally is bewildered by her friend's behavior. Why would anyone not want to be Pretty?
"Maybe just being Ugly is why Uglies always fight and pick on one another, because they aren't happy with who they are. Well, I want to be happy and looking like a real person is the first step."
On the day of Shay's operation, Shay runs away to join the Smokies, a post-industrial band of Uglies who have no interest in civilization. They even cut down trees for fire. Tally misses Shay, but just prepares for her operation. Then Dr. Cable, the head of Special Circumstances, gives Tally an ultimatum. If Tally ever wants to be Pretty, Tally must find Shay and the Smokies and reveal their hideout to Special Circumstances. Then Special Circumstances will make everybody Pretty.
"As the details of the operation buzzed around in her head, she could imagine why Shay had run away. It did seem like a lot to go through just to look a certain way. If only people were smarter, evolved enough to treat everyone the same even if they looked different. Looked Ugly."
Tally desperately wants to be Pretty and of course believes that the world will be better, and more peaceful, if everyone is Pretty. She embarks on a long journey to find the Smokies. When Tally finally encounters the Smokies, she is astonished to see that Uglies can live together in harmony. What if her teachers weren't right about Uglies being bad? And when Tally finds out about what really happens to your brain during the operation, she begins to question everything she thought she knew.

This YA novel really is for young adults. The focus on people being so beautiful that others can't speak or think deep thoughts around them is funny, but I remember being speechless while working with a gorgeous man. It also seems to subtly hint that you need to see past people's looks to discover their personality and strength. This is a series written with a cliffhanger at every book ending. Uglies, the first book, is the best. The writing is uncomplicated, with a little too much repetitive detail for me, but a nice message and an easy fun read. This would be a great tween dystopian novel too.

No comments:

Post a Comment