Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Uglies (Uglies #1)" by Scott Westerfeld

406 pages

Tally Youngblood can't wait to turn sixteen. Not because she'll get her driver's license, but because she'll finally go from Ugly to Pretty. In the futuristic society she lives in, everyone gets an operation when they turn sixteen. An operation that leaves their skin perfect, their faces completely proportional, their eyes large and beautiful. Every single element of their appearance is designed for flawless beauty. Plus New Pretties get to move from their dorms in Uglyville to New Pretty Town, where life is one big party. There is no fighting, crime, or jealousy in New Pretty Town because no one has any advantages over anyone else. It's a system that was put in place hundreds of years ago, after the Rusties nearly ruined the world with their wars and destruction of the environment. It's a system that Tally believes in. Then she meets Shay. Her new friend has heard rumors of another place, way outside the city, where people stay Ugly. It's called the Smoke, and people there believe it's better to keep their own faces, that being Pretty is shallow and unnatural. Tally doesn't buy it, but when Shay disappears and Tally is captured by the Specials--scary Pretties who run the city and want to Tally to lead them to the Smoke--Tally finds herself in big trouble. If she doesn't betray her friend, she will never become Pretty. 

This book really sucked me in, and it's one that will stay with me. At first, I thought the premise was ridiculous, but as I read it began to make more sense. There are real reasons why the world decided that it was smart to make everyone Pretty, and some of their reasons are valid. I like that this dystopia isn't totally black-and-white. The new society has some clear advantages over the old ways--they don't have any war or serious crime, and they take care of the environment instead of destroying it like the Rusties (us!) do. Still, there are obviously some serious moral problems with what they're doing, and even more things come to light as Tally discovers some ugly secrets about what's really going on in her city. This kind of stuff makes you think about what is worth giving up to get rid of the bad parts of human nature. Tally frustrates me sometimes, but I ultimately like her. She makes some big mistakes, but when you consider how difficult it is for her to go against the philosophy she was raised with, she is actually quite strong. The ending is a perfect set up for the next book in the series. This is a good one for people who like sci fi but want the story to emphasize issues and characters more than the technology or setting. There are certainly some fun futuristic elements, but the main focus is on the plot. 

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