Thursday, July 5, 2012

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Summary:  Tally Youngblood is three months away from having her only desire fulfilled: escaping her natural Ugliness by becoming a Pretty on her sixteenth birthday.  Shay, Tally's new friend, tries to convince her there is a life outside of being Pretty in a place called Smoke but Tally refuses to give up her dream.  When the opportunity to become Pretty is taken away from Tally because of Shay's disappearance, she is forced to turn spy and undertake a perilous journey or face the unthinkable idea of being an Ugly forever.  Little does Tally know that there are worse things than being Ugly.

Dystopian Issues:  Government Control, Mind Control
Part of a Series:  Yes
Next in Series:  Pretties
Age of Main Character:  15 at the beginning of the book, 16 by the end
Number of Pages:  406
Year of Publication:  2005
Publisher:  Simon Pulse

Review:  Vapid.  That is the first word that came to my head when I thought about how to describe this book.  A world where a person's only ambition is to escape a brainwashed idea of ugliness is not appealing to me.  Tally, the main character, believes her life will be perfect after she is turned Pretty on her sixteenth birthday.  She is right, but for reasons far more sinister than she suspects.
     I feel like Westerfeld is trying to make a statement about our society's focus on physical appearance but it isn't a strong one.  Yes, in this book being Ugly is actually preferable to being Pretty because being Pretty is usually accompanied by a lobotomy (okay, I'm being a bit dramatic here - a brain lesion that has similar properties as a lobotomy), but Pretties aren't aware of what they are missing and are happy in a mindless kind of way.
     I was left unsatisfied by a lack of explanation for how the society developed.  Westerfeld's reasons of avoiding anorexia and war by having freedom of thought altered were uncompelling.  Westerfeld also could have been more succinct in his execution as it felt like the story took a long time to develop - mind-numbingly slow in some parts yet a page turner in others.
     I grew to like Tally more as she developed over the course of the book but I don't know if I like or care about her enough to tackle Westerfeld's sequel, "Pretties."  I didn't find the depth I usually enjoy in the characters I read about in any of the people Westerfeld presents.
     But if there is anything I took I away from this novel, it is that getting a society to focus solely on something as meaningless as looks sure does grant the governing body a lot of leeway to do whatever they want.  It has a kind of 'smoke and mirrors,' 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' feel to it.

Real-Life Dystopia:  Any reality television show about cosmetic surgery or the Kardashian sisters.

Memorable Quotes:  "History would indicate that the majority of people have always been sheep.  Before the operation, there were wars and mass hatred and clearcutting.  Whatever these lesions made us, it isn't a far cry from the way humanity was in the Rusty era.  These days we're just a bit . . . easier to manage."
     -  Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, pg 258

     "Sometimes Tally felt she could almost accept brain damage if it meant a life without reconstituted noodles."
     -  Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, pg 350

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