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Review: Uglies, Scott Westerfeld

ugliesTally can’t wait to be a pretty.  Her best friend has already turned 16 and had the operation.  Against all the rules, Tally sneaks into New Pretty Town and visits him, promising to do nothing to risk remaining an ugly forever.  In that short summer, Tally meets Shay, another ugly who shares Tally’s birthday.  The two become fast friends, but Shay, disturbingly, does not want to be a pretty.  When Shay sneaks away just before their birthday, Tally is forced to go find her or never become a pretty; but after all that she discovers, does she really want to be one?

Uglies was such a fascinating book.  I’m very into YA dystopian novels.  Actually, I like most of them, but adult versions can get very depressing.  This one reminded me in some ways of The Giver, a fantastic book that I’ve read countless times over the years.  Both kids learn that their perfect, happy society is not at all what it seems in the end and that maybe they don’t want to conform to their society’s expectations of them.

Since I knew something was “wrong” with pretties, or at least something wasn’t good about them, I do have to confess I found myself frustrated with Tally for being so excited about the transition.  I didn’t know what it was, though, and as I was impatient to find out, I found myself racing through the book.  It’s a fairly quick read, I got through it in an evening, but the desire to know did not outweigh the pleasure that I found in these pages.  Tally becomes a wonderful character, growing and changing and becoming more interesting.  I love when this happens and when it’s believable.  She makes mistakes and she learns from them.  I’m not sure any of the secondary characters enjoyed a similar level of personability or character development, but there isn’t enough space with the dynamic, fast-moving plot.

I loved the little details about Tally’s world and how it has changed and I hope that in the following books, we get to learn more.  It’s great when she finds old magazines and finds people who aren’t pretties being defined as beautiful, when she travels through the old rusted city and rides the roller coaster, or the orchid that eradicates all other plant life.  Her own world is interesting too, with walls that can produce any movie she’d like, the endless parties in New Pretty Town, and the suburbs where all of the older pretties live.  Again, I hope it in the next few, we can explore a little more outside this particular settlement.

Uglies was an interesting, thoughtful, but exciting and at times intense read.  I think it can be appreciated by adults and young adults alike.  There is enough here to ponder over while still providing a compelling story.  I recommend it and I really look forward to the rest of the series, since this one ends in a cliffhanger!

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