Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005. Print. ISBN 9781442419810
Uglies is the first book in a series, and it knows it. While it does have a complete plot, both the cliffhanger ending and the multiple unresolved threads make this a frustrating book to end if you don’t have the rest of the series handy. That being said, this was an entertaining science fiction adventure.
From the name of the book to the iridescent nailpolish on the newest cover, Uglies screams “teen girl scene.” Yet within the first few pages, despite the fact that Tally (the flakey narrator of this tale) is definitely a girl, it doesn’t feel like a “girl” story. While becoming pretty is what is expected, pretty isn’t just for girls. Pretty is for everyone. It doesn’t hurt that the first few chapters involve things like jumping off of buildings and high-speed hoverboarding either.
Westerfeld never takes the science out of the realm of plausible. While this may distress some die-hard, deep space, science fiction lovers, it is also a relief to those just being introduced to the genre. Forgotten railroads and metals in water providing the magnetic repulsion for hoverboards? Sensible. Elevators and rooms that work on both iris and voice recognition? In 2014, this isn’t hard to imagine. In fact, the most difficult thing for the reader to wrap their mind around is the fact that everyone under the age of sixteen is “ugly” (they haven’t had plastic surgery) and everyone over sixteen is “pretty.”
This book trots along at a good clip. A book-loving teen (who is open to science fiction) could easily read it in one sitting. Even a reluctant reader is likely to get pulled along by the minor resolutions throughout the book that make the reader feel like something has been accomplished. (For example, Tally learns to hoverboard, Tally finally visits the ruins, and Tally turns sixteen.)
Tally is possibly the weakest link in the book. Not unlike The Hunger Games’ Katniss, Tally causes most of her problems. She cannot make up her mind, whether about being pretty or about loyalty to her friends, and she spontaneously falls in love in a very short period of time while lying to the boy she claims to love.
One thing that the reader cannot forget though, is that this is the first in a series. By the last sentence of this novel, very few things have been resolved. If by the end of this novel, the reader feels invested in Tally, then having Pretties nearby would be a good thing. Though in my case, I’m less curious about what happens to Tally, and more interested in the corruption of the society and how complete said corruption is.
Westerfeld created a novel that appeals on two different levels, that of caring about the person and that of being interested by the world. This duality is why, though by all appearances it is a “girl” book, I can easily seeing this appeal to teen boys.
Aurealis Award (Finalist) Young Adult Novel Australia-2005
Lone Star Reading list-2006-2007
Booklist—“Although the narrative’s brisk pace is more successful in scenes of hover-boarding action than in convincingly developing Tally’s key relationships, teens will sink their teeth into the provocative questions about invasive technology, image-obsessed society, and the ethical quandaries of a mole-turned-ally.”
CCBC—“Given the opportunity, who wouldn’t choose to be pretty? In this future society, surgery at age sixteen makes everyone attractive, eliminating privilege and bias based on physical appearance…It slowly gains appeal, especially after Tally begins to question the governmental motives behind the enforced surgeries. When she uncovers the shocking conspiracy about surgical effects, which go far deeper than outward appearance, Tally is determined to continue life as an Ugly.”
CCBC. Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. 2006. Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=7&isbn=9780689865381
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
Mattson, Jennifer. Booklist. March 2005. (Vol. 101, No.14) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=7&isbn=9780689865381