Friday, September 21, 2012

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Reviewed by Jacey.


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.

**Spoilers alert**

I picked up Uglies after wondering why it was so popular. My answer mostly lies in the book’s eerie similarities to the Twilight Zone’s infamous episode “Number 12 looks just like you.” It takes place in a dystopian society where at age 16, everyone undergoes a complex cosmetic procedure where you are turned into a “Pretty;” your eyes and lips get bigger, your skin is perfect, and your face is made completely symmetrical. Basically, you become what is genetically desirable, which prevents anyone from feeling less than others, and once again spurring another worldwide conflict that happened centuries before. Until then, you are a designated “Ugly.” The main protagonist Tally Youngblood is an Ugly that is all too anxious to turn into a Pretty, after seeing her best friend Peris turn Pretty and get to move to PrettyTown, A teenage paradise, where one parties to their heart's content until you are placed by the government, without her. Having a few more months on her own as an Ugly, she meets a girl named Shay who also is soon to turn Pretty. Unlike Tally though, She likes her “deformities” and does not want to undergo the surgery. Instead she runs for the hills for the "Smoke" a hideout for people who have fled the government that forces a society to become Evolution’s definition of “beautiful.”  In her absence, Tally is then stopped from being made Pretty on her 16 birthday and is instead sent as an infiltrator to find her friend and the hide out of the “Smokies.”
The concept and ideas behind this novel are spooky and are bound to cause a few hairs to stand on end. There are several scenes in which the reader is taken into the state of mind of an Ugly, where personality has no say in what may be deemed attractive and it is believed that you will always be ugly without the help of the government-mandated procedure. Not only do these examples portray a fear of entire dependence on a tyrannical government, it also shows an innate self loathing that the government itself has produced in its populace by portraying those that refuse to depend them as Ugly, not as individuals. Additionally there’s a heart-warming scene where Tally comes to learn what is beauty really is and discovers natural-born attraction and love. The loss of one of the characters in being forced to be a Pretty is heartbreaking. All of these concepts are very insightful, and have the potential for a good read.
Unfortunately for the readers, Westerfeld seems to deliver these concepts somewhat crudely. I felt that for a lot of the plot development in this book, Westerfeld  waters a ton of action and dialogue.  Characters frequently move from point A to point B with very little detail in how they got there or what was being discussed. Essentially, Westerfeld seems to forget one of first lessons in creative writing: Show don’t tell. Oftentimes Tally would come across a character who seems really intriguing and makes you want to hear more, but before that could happen, she was off again on her hoverboard to another location, or she’s off in the woods learning to hoverboard, or she’s going to work on her hoverboard, or off to see her friends ON A HOVERBOARD. This constant jerking around and repetition became infuriating, and while sitting on the plane reading the last few pages, I literally had to force myself to not throw the book into the toilet and flush it into oblivion. Furthermore, while reading this I could not help but feel very little sympathy for Tally Youngblood as she debated whether she should turn the Smokies, or when as she ponders over her feelings for David who is pretty much Shay’s boyfriend and love of her life. Really, her decisions and thoughts alienated me from her for a good chunk of the novel.  Honestly, I may be interested in picking up the sequel just to see what happens next and because the third novel talks about the “Specials” who have superhuman strength and though are the baddies in this, they pretty much kick ass.  However, I would not recommend buying this book at the original sales price of $8.99, but rather at the price I bought it for at the book barn: $1

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