Book Review of the Month:
(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Title: Uglies (Uglies #1)
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Length: 411 pages
Publication: 2005 by Simon Pulse
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.
But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. 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 a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever…
‘Uglies’ is written in third person past tense limited. In other words, we follow a single character. While the single character, Tally, a fifteen-year-old ‘ugly’ girl, isn’t telling the story herself, the narrator informs us as to what Tally thinks and feels during the events that unfold. Given the young age of the character, we are more acceptable of some her mannerisms and the way she interacts with her world.
Pacing: The pacing of this book was both slow and fast. Odd, I know. The book is set in three parts. The first part is the longest segment taking place over a span of three months with the second part covering only a few weeks. The last exists in a matter of days.
World: The world of ‘Uglies’ is wonderfully familiar. It has the rules and structure of ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry with the operation being a necessary part of life such as in ‘Delirium’ by Lauren Oliver. Even so, this is a world all its own. A world where the people aren’t contained as in a Big Brother society, but have the freedom to leave the city as they see fit with the expectation that the city’s so amazing they’ll willingly come back.
I also love how the author uses present-day culture to create the world of Uglies. The pressing issues of fuel sources, media influence, the desire to fit in at any stage of life, and the fun facts of science to explain it all. The entire world both city and outside, are things that people can relate to today. It’s what engages the reader. It’s what keeps them involved.
Character: Tally is a superficial, yet intelligent, fifteen-year-old girl. She’s grown up in a regulated world and taught that the past is bad, the present is perfect, and everyone should be exactly the same. As a result, her constant desire to be turned ‘pretty’ is annoying. It turns out to be the driving factor for her. Given that it’s a right of passage for teens to become adults, a signifier of growing up, the superficial nature of her desire can often times be overlooked. However, it recurs again and again. It’s the desire that she’s grown up with her entire life, been told to want, and it’s this desire to be changed into the ‘norm’ that makes her a selfish character. Selfish enough to wander off and betray her friend.
Even later on in the book, when she comes to understand and live in the Smoke, she still has that selfish nature. She still craves to be listened to, to be the center of attention. It makes her needy. It’s this quality that makes her sudden relationship with David feel almost fake. Perhaps it just happens too quickly for my tastes. Though, being the age they are, affection tends to grow quickly. Frankly, when it comes down to it, Tally was a really believable character, even if annoying and naive at times, but what do you expect from a fifteen-year-old?
Plot: The plot was fantastic! I love that the society was designed to be superficial and yet at the same time is designed to accept everyone and make sure that no one feels left out. It creates equality. It creates a society, even though corrupt, that puts everyone on the same level. Discrimination isn’t a thing. Yet, it’s this need for sameness and equality that drives Tally to convince herself that betraying her friends is okay.
Such a decision presses her into a new world, and molds her into a person she didn’t think she was. The story is a ride through a normal teenagers life. There’s the need to fit in, the act of selfishness and lying, of betrayal, and reconciliation. It’s just like any teenager, except for the world. That’s what makes the plot so great because all children, and adults even, make mistakes, but it’s what people do to make up for those mistakes that defines us. In the end it’s Tally’s realization of what she’s done and who she truly wants to be, that spurs her need to recompense for her betrayals(accidental and intentional). Such a need sends her on a wild ride of forgiveness, revealing truths, and escape plans.
The escape plan brings the whole book home. All of the little things that were shown in part one with the bungee jackets, the hover boards(which totally felt like Back to the Future :p), and the roller coaster, all made the third part come together nicely. There was a rounding in the plot. It wasn’t disjointed and all came to a wonderful close. In my opinion, almost too perfect of a close.
The escape was planned in a rush and yet, it went without a hitch. They didn’t set off any sensors. They didn’t alert any guards until the absolute ending and none of the guards(even though they were Specials) seemed unable to catch a single person. They had just enough hover boards for the Smokies (and yet during the invasion it sounded like there were quite a few more people going back to Tally’s city than just the seven they rescued). Not a single Smokie was re-captured. It just seemed to go a little too well in my opinion, even if the truth about her being an infiltrator finally came out, even if Shay was turned pretty and there’s no way to fix her, even if Tally gives herself up for the transformation to ‘pretty’. The ending just seemed a little too smooth for my tastes (but I like darker endings. So I’m biased. :p)
I spent the entire book wondering, ‘alright. When’s she gonna turn pretty? The next book is entitled ‘Pretty’. Does she get the surgery in this book?’ The whole time! It was bad. :p
I really want a hoverboard now. Though, I should probably learn to skateboard first. Haha!
Being a science geek myself I loved the science that went into the explanations of the world of the book. Amazing!
Alright! Enough of my ramblings. Frankly, I loved this book, the world it was placed in, the relevant social and economic problems the book hints at, and how easily it was to relate with the viewpoints on most things. With that said I leave my rating of this book at five stars.