(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Length: 399 pages
Publication: May 3rd 2011 by Simon Pulse
It’s a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. “Tech-heads” flaunt their latest gadgets, “kickers” spread gossip and trends, and “surge monkeys” are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it’s all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.
As if being fifteen doesn’t suck enough, Aya Fuse’s rank of 451,369 is so low, she’s a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn’t care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself.
Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity… and extreme danger. A world she’s not prepared for.
‘Extras’ is written in third person past tense limited with the followed character being Aya Fuse, a fifteen-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to be famous. While she isn’t telling the story herself, the narrator informs us as to what Aya thinks and feels during the events that unfold. Given the young age of the character, we are more acceptable of some her naive and childish mannerisms and the way she interacts with her world.
Pacing: The pacing of this novel is fast. Each scene is utilized to build toward the plot or is heavily packed with action. Even the few breather chapters sprinkled in make sure to offer important information to further the story.
World: Unlike the first three books in the series, this book takes place in Japan. There is quite a bit more technology from the first few books, too, because of a sudden spark in technology. As a result, the world and its inner workings are far more intricate, but with fewer explanations, which keep the reader interested, but not overly bogged down by the details. This new high-tech society also contrasts more sharply from the ‘wild’, which adds great insight into characters and their lifestyles.
Writing: The writing is clear, concise, and sharp while utilizing the strange language and natural buoyancy of the terminology. A few scenes were difficult to understand, but most of them were explained well enough to provide an idea of what’s happening.
Non-Spoilered Plot: In a society where fame is everything, fifteen-year-old Aya Fuse will do whatever it takes to increase her face rank. Yet, what starts off as harmless infiltration into an incognito clique of girls turns into a life-risking adventure to expose secrets no one imagined possible. The problem with racing a clock to get a story out to the public, though, is making sure you have all the facts.
Character: Aya Fuse is fifteen-years-old and wants nothing more than to increase her face rank and be famous, thinking this is the key to a happy life. Her determination to do so is her driving factor throughout the book. Even when other, more important secrets become known, Aya can’t shake the need to get the story, expose it, and ride the wave to top. As a result, she often comes off as naive, self-centered, and childish. Yet, each of these is understandable for a young teen growing up in a society that tells her fame is everything.
Plot: The plot of this novel could be classified as ‘rebirth’ because naive Aya Fuse changes into a better person when she realizes what fame really means and the consequences of one’s eagerness. After all, she felt like she was racing a clock to get her story out. She was so worried about being famous right this second that she thought nothing of the consequences and little of the things she left out. As a result, her actions throw her, and her friends, into a situation that fame that can’t protect them from.
While annoying how naive and self-centered Aya remains throughout a good portion of the book, it’s understandable given her age and the society she grew up in. It was also necessary to advance the plot. If she hadn’t been so keen on getting the story right, she never would have snuck into the Extras camp and found out the truth about their ‘missiles.’
One could say she should never have kicked the story about the city-killer in the first place, because then nothing would have gone wrong and she never would’ve been able to suspect the Extras of missiles. However, then the Extras never would’ve been exposed. Their initiative to reach orbit never would’ve been seen by the world and they never would’ve gained the support of the world to help them save the planet.
Not to mention, this expansion into orbit leaves the end of the book with the hope that the human race would realize it can’t keep expanding into the wild and can’t keep scrounging for metal in every place possible. They’re being given an alternative. While it is a scary alternative (leaving the planet), it’s a reminder that what they are doing is wrong (stripping the world of metal). This alternative is necessary because of humanity’s ability to forget the past and repeat it, even in such a short time as three years since the mind-rain.
Granted, Tally Youngblood is meant to stop them for expanding into the wild, but how does one girl (or a few Cutters and an ugly) keep the entire world in check? It’s too big of a job, especially since destruction of these forces isn’t really solving the problem. Rebuilding is too easy. All in all, the plot was well-developed and appropriately executed with the help of realistic and developing characters. As such, I leave my rating of this novel, ‘Extras’, at five stars.
Have you read ‘Extras’ by Scott Westerfeld? What did you think of it?
Let me know in the comments below!