Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

UgliesEven before Uglies won my little poll, I was already cracking the cover and diving right on into Tally’s world. In Tally’s world — a dystopian world — anyone normal is ugly and the only way to find true happiness is to undergo one radical operation after another. Children start out as littles — small and adorable — but as soon as they hit their preteens, they suddenly morph into ugly, emotional beings.

“But it’s a trick, Tally. You’ve only seen pretty faces your whole life. Your parents, your teachers everyone over sixteen. But you weren’t born expecting that kind of beauty in everyone, all the time. You just got programmed into thinking anything else is ugly.” (pg. 82)

If you can’t already tell, Uglies’ premise is commentary on how preteens and teens feel about themselves, but it’s also commentary on the way we run the world. The “Ruties” — people who damaged the world through burning oil, mowing down complete forests, and over-hunting, over-populating — are completely vilified by the Pretties, Uglies, and everyone in between, the example of how they have risen above Americans and a better society. And I thought it was completely original on how we fall.

“Everyone judged everyone else based on their appearance. People who were taller got better jobs, and people even voted for some politicians just because they weren’t quite as ugly as everybody else. Blah, blah, blah.”

“Yeah, and people killed one another over stuff like having different skin color.” Tally shook her head. No matter how many times they repeated it at school, she’d never really quite believe that one. “So what if people look more alike now? It’s the only way to make people equal.” (pg. 44-45)

On the other hand, while I liked the story, I thought some of the story was lacking that spark that would have made it great. The dialogue was pretty dry, and at times I thought that teens would never phrase things like that. And Tally, for instance, just came across as kind of whiny. I realize she has to be naïve in order for the story to work, but she doesn’t need to be naïve and whiny. I did think her personal struggle to come to grips with the truth about the operations was very well-written; it was believable and interesting. David and Shay were clearly the better characters, and the hope their development continues throughout the trilogy.

The only other thing that bugged me was how dated the writing was. Yes, the book was published in 2005, but I felt like a lot of the futuristic ideas (holograms, hovercrafts) had already been written about in Star Trek, Star Wars, and the like.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005. Print. 425 pgs. ISBN: 9780689865381. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Simon Pulse. Retrieved: May 18, 2009.