It's summertime and only three months until Tally turns sixteen—a significant birthday. For Tally, however, sixteen doesn't mean getting a drivers license or having an expensive party; it means undergoing an operation. But everyone has the operation on his or her birthday; it's a rite of passage.
In Tally's world, everyone is happy and everyone gets along. That's because everyone over the age of sixteen is drop-dead gorgeous. And best of all, the new pretties don't have any responsibilities. They live in New Pretty Town, where they are given everything they could want, and there is music and dancing and fireworks every day.
Across the river in Uglyville, Tally is unhappy and lonely because her friends have already been changed. One night when Tally sneaks into New Pretty Town and inadvertently causes a ruckus, she meets a fellow ugly. Shay is a hoverboarding daredevil radical who shares Tally's birthday. Tally is counting the days until she can become pretty and join her old friends. Shay, however, dwells on the rumors about kids who have gone into the wilderness and stayed ugly.
What's wrong with making everyone beautiful? What's wrong with being happy and young and having fun? Tally and Shay have a lot to learn from each other and about the world they live in.
In Uglies, the first a in trilogy, Scott Westerfeld has created a very believable world. The technology and politics don't seem that far-fetched for three hundred years from now. And few of us could argue that our society will remain unchanged for centuries to come.
Although Westerfeld covers a lot of territory in this dystopian novel—politics, technology, education, parenthood, friendship, and personal ethics—he doesn't get preachy. Furthermore, the book can be read on a number of levels, which gives it broad appeal.
It's impossible to discuss the greater issues in Uglies without spoiling the book. Instead, let me simply say that my niece has been wanting me to read the series for three or four years, and now I'm wondering what I waited for.
Tally, Shay, and the other characters will quickly become your friends. You'll be with them on wild hoverboard rides along the riverbed and when they play tricks on the new uglies. Like them, you'll be curious about the demise of the rusties (us!), all those hundreds of years ago. And it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and worry as they approach their birthday.
There are also those deeper issues to think about: Where are we, as humans, headed? Where will our technology take us? How far should we go to find happiness and world peace?
My only complaint is that Uglies ends on a cliff-hanger, and I'm going to have to read Pretties in the next week or so.
Scott Westerfeld has a website, including a blog, where you can learn more about his books and research.
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2006
Challenges: 100+, A-Z Titles
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Reading at the Beach is the host for this meme: Each week she invites us to spotlight a book whose title begins with the featured letter. This week it's U.