UGLIES is one of the best children's SF novels I've come across for a year, and as it will get nothing out of its publishers but word-of-mouth I strongly recommend you buy it if you have a daughter going through puberty, because it dramatises the sick, looks-obsessed world we live in like nothing else. Tally can't wait until she's 16 and can be changed by plastic surgery into a Pretty, whose life like that of her best friend, will be filled with parties and fashionable clothes. In the future, everyone looks like a supermodel, and nobody stops to think whether this is a good thing - after all, there are no more wars, are there? But when Tally's new friend Shay takes off to live with the rebel Uglies, Tally is told she will never be made Pretty unless she follows the cryptic directions her friend left for her and betrays the rebels. This Tally is all set to do - until she not only falls in love but discovers just what the surgery awaiting her will do to her brain as well as her body.
Uglies is a really clever and pertinent dystopian fantasy of a kind that asks children whether they really want to give up their individuality to become a blandly perfect being. Exciting, fast-paced and easy to read it tackles the propaganda pumped out by glossy magazines and shows how ugly extreme beauty would be.
on 13 May 2014
Uglies is the first novel in a new futuristic series set after an apocalyptic-disaster that reshaped the world and follows the life of Tally, a fifteen year old 'ugly' who lives to be a 'pretty.' In this new society, humans travel by hover-boards, can access anything they want through a hole in their wall and live as 'uglies' until they reach sixteen, when every person goes through extreme cosmetic surgery to make them 'pretty.' The uglies and pretties live separately in dorm rooms in private towns, in the center of the 'burbs' where the parents live.
Tally is about to turn sixteen and cannot wait to turn pretty, until she makes a new friend. Her new friend, Shay, doesn't want to become pretty and is very keen on exploring the ruins of the old cities ran by 'rusties' (the people of today's society - you and me) and living life away from the sheltered community they currently live in.
I've read a lot of contradicting opinions on the book, but mine is fairly straight forward. I really enjoyed reading this book and I can't wait to read the others in the series. The story, in my opinion, was well written and whilst slow at times, was entertaining throughout. It isn't a difficult read, it's quite simple to follow and can be read within a short period of time. If you look deeper into the book, there is a social commentary present and it made me question the ways in which we see ourselves as a society and the impact appearance has on our daily lives. I would definitely recommend reading this book as it's entertaining and an interesting concept to think about.
on 29 September 2013
When I read the words `cat vomit` in the first sentence of Westerfeld's book, as he described the colour of the sky, I remember thinking: I hope this is not a taste of what is to come. But nothing came to merit those words, lest it be the opposition of ugliness to a standardised notion of beauty that underlies the book. I wonder why the author used them, especially in his opening sentence.
Writing Uglies must have been a challenge for Scott Westerfeld. Challenge? The difficulty is inherent in the central theme of the book: the glorification of a standarised canon of beauty imposed by surgical intervention. All teenagers, who are universally called uglies, have come to despise their appearance and yearn for the beauty they will have once they are sixteen and are operated on to make them "pretty". It is not easy to write a story in which most of the population's appearance and behaviour have been normalised such that there are few distinguishing features. There's a sort of faceless grin or grimace to the world. Even the baddies, when they finally erupt on the stage, look alike. No wonder the main character, Tally, and her new-found ugly friend, swim in a sea of faceless people at the beginning of the book. This narrowness of perspective and the flippancy of the two girls makes holding the reader's attention more difficult.
The story did however hold my attention from the beginning, although I did wonder what it was that gave it more rounded edges than many a dystopian novel. I suspect this is partly because the threats and dangers are only hinted at but are not personified or made present in the first part of the story. It is as if the girls can get away with anything without being caught (despite narrow scrapes). Nothing matters. They'll all be pretty soon.
The situation changes radically when Tally is forced to leave her shallow world and has to deal with people who have depth to their personalities and meaning to their lives, despite their `ugly' faces. Even the baddies take on a tangible form and their threat becomes real. From that turning point onwards the story picks up speed and breadth and the reader is carried away by its intensity. The contrast between these two parts of the book is its key articulation and therein lies the difficulty: how do you portray shallowness and flippancy at the outset, without leaving the impression that the story itself is superficial and discouraging the reader from continuing. Westerfeld took the risk and it paid off. A story well worth reading.
on 24 October 2011
I've read a few YA books lately that look at the notion of a dystopian/utopian society (Delirium and The Hunger Games Trilogy being prime examples) and I was keen to see what else could be written about it and what spin this author could put on it. I wasn't left feeling disappointed and this is a terrific little book.
`Uglies' is set in a world whereupon your sixteenth birthday you have an operation to erase your every flaw and grant you utter perfection, transforming you from an everyday person (an `ugly') into a `pretty.' Being pretty entitles you to a perfect life of parties and having a good time- acceptance by beautiful people just like yourself, though no one realises that this comes with the ultimate price...
As I've said this was a very well written novel and seems very fitting in today's world where people are obsessed by celebrities and looks. The narrator, sixteen year-old Tally is a character who develops and changes as the book progresses and I really felt for her predicament- she starts off as not that likeable but then as a reader I did end up caring for her and wanting to know what would happen. This book in that sense, reminded me of `Delirium' where the protagonist finds their world turned upside down and with a difficult decision to make. The other secondary characters too, were well portrayed and I really found myself feeling for David and Shay.
The story is written in such a cleverly descriptive way that as a reader you naturally suspend your sense of disbelief and let the writing transport you to another place. I could clearly imagine the world of the Uglies and the Pretties and the people who Tally encountered. I would not hesitate in recommending this book to teens or adults alike and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
on 10 April 2010
I'm a big believer in the importance of writing objective reviews, but I'd like to start this one with a confession: I love Uglies. I loved it the first time I read it, three years ago, and I've loved it each of the six or seven times I've reread it since. It's a vivid, relevant and exhilarating dystopia which somehow manages to be thought-provoking and wicked good fun at the same time. It's official: I'm an Uglies fangirl.
First up, there's the fascinating premise. Scott Westerfeld has created a vision of the future which addresses issues about self-perception that today's teens commonly face, and gives us food for thought about our own society. In Tally's world, anyone under sixteen has had it drummed into them that before surgery they're all ugly, since being pretty is really a matter of conforming to mathematical ideals like perfect symmetry which we're programmed to seek out in others for the good of the species. Genetic traits are viewed as the cause of all injustice in archaic societies like that of the 'Rusties' (that's us), but the leaders of Tally's society say that human beings can't help it - it's hard-wired into our brains. So instead of trying to build a more enlightened society, they decided to turn everyone into the model of wide-eyed, clear-skinned beauty that everyone else would naturally adore. To Tally, who's been raised on stories about the horror of Rusty society, this sounds like progress. Her world doesn't have wars, the people are happy, and besides - who wouldn't want to be pretty?
In addition, Uglies has some of the most outstanding world-building I've encountered in a YA dystopia. It's detailed and thorough, with the kind of wish-fulfilment technology that'll make gadget enthusiasts green with envy. Take transport: since the Rusties' civilisation ended when a manmade virus destroyed the world's oil, cars are no longer an option in Tally's time. So she and her friends get around using solar powered hoverboards, wearing magnetic 'crash bracelets' to stop them smashing themselves up when they take a spill. Aside from technology, Uglies also contains some highly infectious slang and an intriguing rebel society in the form of the Smokies - who, unlike the city-dwellers, horrify Tally at first by eating meat and killing trees for firewood.
But my absolute favourite thing about Uglies is the characters. Tally Youngblood is a product of her society, and a result she's a far cry from most of the MCs you'll meet in YA dystopia. She doesn't start out with unshakeable integrity or the ability to see through her society's ideals. She initially follows Shay to secure her own pretty future, and so her inner journey in this book is very much about becoming her own person and learning to take responsibility for her actions. The initial friendship between Tally and Shay becomes gradually more complex as the story unfolds and they become caught up in a love triangle with the legendary David, making for some interesting conflict and setting the tone for the rest of the series. In Uglies we also meet the chilling Dr Cable, head of Special Circumstances (think secret police) who illustrates that there's a fine line between pretty perfect and pretty terrifying. It's the first in a series where the relationships between characters can often be ambiguous and complicated, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about some difficult moral grey areas.
As Uglies is the first book in a series, I have to warn potential readers that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I have mixed feelings about this, as with a more satisfying ending Uglies could have made a brilliant standalone novel. Much as I love it, I can't help but think that some of the impact of Uglies was sacrificed to set up the rest of the trilogy. However, my repeated rereading of this one is evidence that this is by no means a deal-breaker. The first time I read it, I found myself staring at the last page, utterly bereft, for the entire thirty seconds it took me to decide that I was heading straight out to the bookstore to get myself a copy of book two. Luckily, the whole series has now been published, so there's no need for an agonising wait between instalments. I'd recommend Uglies to all fans of YA dystopia, particularly those who are looking for an immersive read with substance. This one has 'modern YA classic' written all over it.
on 22 June 2008
Whilst I see that the simplicity of the writing makes this book ideal for pre-teens and early teens, at 19 I also enjoyed it. It tackles important issues about appearance and society's warped view of it, as well as the 1984-esque probe that we cannot always trust those in authority. It is ultimately about individuality, encouraging readers to think for themselves, just as in other dystopian novels.
The intriguing plot and fast-paced action aside, the characters kept me hooked. Tally is wonderful: she is easy to sympathise with, yet it is obvious to readers that she makes mistakes too. Especially in Pretties and Specials, she develops and becomes even more real. I love these books and I'll definitely read them time and time again, and recommend them to my friends.
on 11 April 2011
I was really looking forward to reading this book when I bought it, I thought the concept seemed really interesting. However for me it wasn't anything special. It wasn't awful, it had a decent plot and I liked how it confronted how society is obsessed with being 'beautiful', but I found myself not really caring about the characters. I'm 18 and I'm guessing this book is probably aimed at a very slightly younger age group than me. I'm not normally a person to nitpick at books but some things in this book just seemed to come far too easily to the characters, and I never really worried about the characters survival either, it just seemed like a given that the main ones were going to survive.
Overall it was a decent book but I didn't find it anything special. It'd probably be better suited for ages 10-16.
on 21 January 2011
This is one of those books you originally find in your library, that doesn't seem to have been read a lot and you pick it on a whim, thinking "Why not? Doesn't look bad" but you think you'll forget it a week after you read it.
This is NOT one of those books. After returning it I bought it, and the next in the series too - it's thrilling and questions whether beauty is under our control, whether it's our choice how we look or if we should all look and think the same.
It is set in the future, and our generation are regarded as stupid and responsible for almost wiping the human species out. Everyone is given an operation on their sixteen birthday to turn into a Pretty - and this is where their life begins. Everyone is born Ugly - which is like the normal person for us - and they turn into Pretties - think pretty supermodels but with normal sized bodies. Tally wishes to become Pretty. . . however, Shay, her new friend, tries to encourage her to run away. . .
You should give this book a try, and for those who think it's girly and dull, it's not - it's actually quite thrilling.
on 10 August 2006
On reading reviews of this book it seems only aimed at young teenage girls. As I am a 19 year old myself I also found this book fantastic. I couldn't put it down. I found it such as interesting read for in the insight it can give into the perception of beauty. I belive this book can be enjoyed by older and younger teens alike as they will see different things within the book. I came away with desperate to read the second book. I recommend it to all. My boyfriend is also currently enjoying reading it, so maybe it's not just for us girls?
I picked this up based on dozens of recommendations from friends and people on the internet, and it's one of the best YA Dystopian Novels I've ever read (and I've read a lot!).
Uglies, the first in a quartet of books, is set in a fairly distant future, after some cataclysm destroys the world in which we modern day people (referred to as Rusties in the book) live. The world is now split into many smaller cities, in which people are segregated according to their age: until you are 11, you are a "littlie" and live with your parents; from 12 to 15 you are an "ugly" and live in a dorm with other young teenagers; and from 16 onwards you are a "pretty" (new, middle, or late depending on your age) and live with other pretties.
The protagonist is Tally Youngblood, who has just lost her best friend because he turned 16 a few months before she did, and thus has already had the prettifying operation and been moved into New Pretty Town. Tally has been left behind in Uglyville, but she soon makes a new friend (Shay), who happens to have the exact same birthday as Tally. This initially fills both girls with excitement, as it means neither will be left behind. Or does it?
Shay runs away, and Tally has to choose whether or not to follow her. Her choice will change everything.
The book is, simply, fantastic. The characters are more interesting and three-dimensional than those in 90 % of other YA books I've read, and the discussions of what beauty is are rather breathtakingly deep. You'd think it would be very simple - an operation to make everyone look the same sounds horrifying! - but there are some fabulous arguments regarding the body image of Rusties that make it sound almost reasonable. There are also some very interesting themes regarding friendship, love, loyalty, and conformity.
Although this is the first book in a quartet, it works completely as a stand-alone - the end is open, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels in any regard, and to anyone who ever thinks that the way we treat beauty in our society might be a bit messed up.