Just finished a new Library book Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005) Scholastic,
Scott Westerfeld’s YA novel is set in the future where a catastrophic event ended the world for “Rusties” (AKA what we would consider contemporary society) and created a new order where people are divided into “littles” (children) “uglies” (12-16) and “pretties” (16+). And within the “Pretties” there are “new pretties” (16-21ish) “middle pretties” (21-30s) and “old pretties” (40-50s) then “dead pretty” (sort of implied as older than 50 but never stated as fact).
I admit, I did not want to read this book at first. There are a lot of post-apocalyptic novels out there, and I was not looking forward to reading another one. There are two boys Peris and David and two main female characters Tally and Shay. I enjoyed this book enough to read it all in one sitting. I found the cliffhanger ending annoying, but I can see how “Uglies” would be a fantastic book for any teenager who likes to question not just societal values of what makes a person “pretty” “useful” and “good”, but also loves a great adventure story. This is book one of three books and is aimed at 7th grade and up.
Without giving too much away, our heroine “Tally” is about to turn pretty and she is lonely until she befriends another ugly named Shay. Shay decides she likes her face the way it is, and runs away. Tally wants to be pretty so she can go live with her best guy friend Peris in “New Pretty Town”. But because Shay ran away, the authority decides “Special Circumstances” are due for Tally. She can’t be pretty until she finds David and “Smokey” City. If you are a Hunger Games fan, think “New Pretty Town” is District 1 high-tech party town, selfish, and “Smoky” is District 14 only stolen tech and everyone works for the good of the town. Thus begins our adventure. Tally must decide where her loyalties are, and who is she rescuing? Is she saving Shay from a lifetime of being ugly, or will the Smokies save Tally from something even worse?
This is a complex novel set in a rich world where “big brother” is all around, but everyone lives in harmony. Even the name calling amongst the uglies does not feel oppressive. It is just how everyone behaves, like allowing a toddler to throw temper tantrums before showing them how to behave. It is a land of extremes, and Mr. Westerfeld goes to extremes himself never fully describing an “Ugly” (although at one point he uses the word normal) just the features they are upset about, but goes to great lengths to describing a “pretty”. The funny thing is, a “pretty” sounds an awful lot like a Bug Eyed Monster to me (wide, large luminous eyes, smooth brow, sharp perfect teeth made of aircraft ceramics), and the Specials are fierce and scary (but that is about the only description: fear inspiring and scary).
A book that can be discussed at length and enjoyed by many. Don’t let the “pretty” cover or description make you not want to read it. I think both boys and girls would enjoy it. A link to discussion questions about this book can be found at: