Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Read Kari's review of the sequel, Pretties.

Summary: Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever. (Summary and image from

My Review: I had a hard time putting this book down once I was vested in the characters. Right from the start it transports you back to your teen years when all that seems to matter is how you look, that you belong, and are having a fabulous time. Tally wants badly to join her childhood friend with all the other Pretties. This strange world in the future gives every 16 year old--boy and girl--massive cosmetic surgery making them intensely, captivatingly beautiful. While this gets rid of the advantage naturally beautiful people have, it also takes away all individuality.

What is left out, when the kids are informed of the surgery beforehand, is that something else, something sinister is being done--I'm not telling you what that is here: you have to read the book. Tally finds this out rather by accident. And then she is thrown into a world she didn't know existed and a quest she didn't know she believed in.

There are many themes to this book that are great to discuss with kids and I think with adults as well. I'd recommend this series for a book club. There are themes of what true beauty is or is not, power and how power corrupts, control and how we are controlled, society and what makes a society good, media and how it shapes thinking, etc.

One part of the book that makes it both unique and annoying is Westerfeld's creative dialect made realistically of Teen vernacular. Tally is eventually called Tally-wa. Everything is pretty-making, or bubbly, or many other adjective-driven, valley-girl sounding slang. While this makes the book seem very teen realistic, it's VERY annoying by the end of the series.

My warning to parents: I'd probably say this book is for an older Young Adult, or one that can handle older themes. The book throws kids into the world of partying and drinking quickly as this is a norm of life once the surgery is performed. The message is a good one despite this: drinking and partying is a mindless way of life. I'm still not comfortable with many middle school age kids reading this book unless drinking and partying is already a normal part of his or her life--and yes, there are many that this is the case. For high school students, I feel, this is a very applicable read. In addition, the subsequent books after Uglies go into darker themes. Therefore, if you're not wanting your teen to delve into those subsequent books, it may be best not to get them started on this one until they're older.

As I just mentioned, there are 3 books following this one so the ending is purposefully left open. As an aside, Uglies was probably my favorite.

Rating: 4.5 Stars Almost a 5 stars, but lacked just a little of that 'I adore you' aspect to make it so.

Sum it up in a phrase: Definitely a social commentary book aimed at teens about what really matters: beauty or what's beneath your skin.


MindySue said...

Great review Kari! This is one of those books that, because of the title and cover, I probably NEVER would have picked up if it hadn't been recommended so highly to me by someone that I trust. I would have thought is was one of those high-school-gossip-girl-OMG-like-whatever books.
It is SO not!

I loved these books and thought that they were perfect YA reads...probably for a little bit older set, but I really did feel that they put the drinking,etc in such a negative light that the message was pretty clear. Only BUBBLEHEADS do it.

I also loved that they had their own way of speaking that was unique to the book. It helped enhance the feeling of being in a completely different place in time.

MindySue said...

HAHA. Sorry , I just noticed that you called their way of speaking annoying. Ooops. I must've missed that part in your review. Didn't mean to contradict, but I really did like it.

MindySue said...

and it was Bubblies instead of Bubbleheads, wasn't it. It's been a while.

Irish said...

One of my favourite books from last year :) .... Loved the series ... Enjoyed Midnighters as well


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