30 December 2009

Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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.

Uglies at Powell's
Uglies at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2006
ISBN-13: 9781416934509
Challenges: 100+, A-Z Titles
Source: Bought (see review policy)
YTD: 99
Rating: B+

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.


Nise' 12/30/09, 9:50 AM  

I have a young teen friend that told me I NEED to read this series. I have plans to do so in 2010.

Joyful 12/30/09, 11:17 AM  

Interesting...Sneeking into `Pretty Town`

My `U` is here:

Darlene 12/30/09, 11:44 AM  

Well I guess that does it - I'm finally going to have to pick up this series. I've got to be one of the last people to read it I think. I don't think I've ran into anyone who hasn't liked it.

Margot 12/30/09, 12:23 PM  

Not my normal type of book but you made it seem appealing.

Nely 12/30/09, 1:05 PM  

I read this a couple of months back and really enjoyed it as well. Still haven't gotten around to reading Pretties yet. Will have to sooner than later. Lovely review as always.


kayerj 12/30/09, 1:40 PM  

I want to read this series . . .

chrisa511 12/30/09, 1:52 PM  

Gah!! Why have I still not read this series??? I've had this book sitting on my shelf for over a year now...I really need to get to it. Sounds so good too!

Anonymous,  12/30/09, 2:38 PM  

I didn't really care for Uglies, but I think I'm the only one. I never got around to reading any further in the series.

Kristen 12/30/09, 4:09 PM  

I keep seeing raves for this one everywhere. One of these days I will give in and try it despite it being so far out of my comfort zone.

My U book is here.

Beth 12/30/09, 4:35 PM  

Sounds very interesting. Here is my "U" book.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) 12/30/09, 5:11 PM  

I've just started reading this book and am enjoying it so far. I'll be interested to see how it progresses and am pleased that you enjoyed it.

Julie P. 12/30/09, 5:47 PM  

So many great reviews of these books -- I can't wait to read them!

me again 12/30/09, 5:47 PM  

This makes me think of The Stepford Wives!
If you want to have a look, here's my U book.
Happy new year!

Jenners 12/30/09, 7:20 PM  

This is another one that everyone seems to love ... I'm sure I'll be reading it at some point. Makes me curious to hear about the fate of the "Rusties."

Jen - Devourer of Books 12/30/09, 7:29 PM  

I loved this series too. When your biggest complaint is "well dang it, now I have to read the next one ASAP," that's a good thing!

bermudaonion 12/30/09, 7:50 PM  

I think this series is one of Carl's favorites. I hope to read it soon.

Beth Kephart 12/31/09, 5:37 AM  

I needed to understand what this book is, and I thank you — so much — for making it clear to me. A very interesting premise!

Meghan 12/31/09, 8:26 AM  

I really enjoyed this too! I'm glad you're reading the series. I still haven't read Pretties, but I'd like to soon.

Michelle 12/31/09, 8:38 AM  

I have got to get on reading this series. Given the fact that you feel the need to move right into book two that tells me how good it is. Marsden levels good though?

Anonymous,  1/2/10, 12:10 AM  

I've heard so many good things about this that I finally added it to my list. Great review!

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