In today’s world where achieving perfection seems to be key for most people, I cannot think of a better book to read than Uglies by Scott Westerfeld to spread the message that “perfection” is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Uglies is the first part of a trilogy, and though published 6 years ago in 2006 in the UK by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, the underlying moral of the story will always run clear. Trying to achieve perfection through extreme means will never help you achieve ultimate happiness. The main plot is about a society in the future where people are either “ugly” or “pretty”, with people forever aiming to have better and more awesome surge to make themselves look extreme.
The plot revolves around the main character Tally Youngblood, a young girl on the verge of her sixteenth birthday. However, sixteenth birthdays mean a lot more in her world than just big parties and expensive presents; they mean becoming ‘pretty’. And all Tally has ever dreamt about is going through the routine surge that changes her ugly, normal face to that of a large, doe-eyed girl whose beauty will have everyone awestruck. Not only that, but she’ll also get to move to New Pretty Town where life will become one big bubbly party and where everyone has gone through the same process of becoming a beautiful version of themselves. Of course, this book is set some time in the future, in which our “rusty” world today has gone after almost being wiped out by a biological epidemic, thus forming the new society of making everyone look and think the same to avoid any more difference and conflict. However, Tally is yet to learn the real truth about the operation, and what it really does to pretty heads.
Tally is joined by several other main characters in Uglies. One of these is Shay, her close friend who shares the same 16th birthday. Shay differs from Tally in that she is not your typical teen looking forward to becoming pretty, and she attempts to convince Tally to run away, to leave their protective City bubble and to find the Smoke, a small group of people who do not believe in becoming pretty and want to live like the pre-rusties, cavemen, gathering and hunting. Westerfeld makes Shay a feisty and strong female character, and I think influential heroins are vital to making any story that much more inspiring, and give young female readers a character to aspire to. After a run-in with the mysterious Special Circumstances, who end up giving Tally a very scary ultimatum, Tally sets off for a long adventure to the wilds, where she eventually finds and joins the Smoke. Tally is constantly reminding herself that she is not there for fun and games, but to bring her friend Shay back to the City but while she is there on her mission, Tally meets David, an ugly who sparks her interest. Here she experiences some new feelings and makes new friends, learning that becoming pretty and partying every night is not all there is to life. This is reinforced after meeting David’s parents and learning a secret that is to change the future of Tally’s world forever.
Without wanting to give away any major parts of the story, this first book of the trilogy ends on a cliff hanger, in which Tally becomes the heroin of the story, putting herself on the line to save the people of her City, and possibly the world.
Westerfeld uses some interesting dialogue in Uglies, with the characters using terminology such as “bubbly” and “surge” to appeal to younger readers and also to get across the theme that becoming ‘pretty’ turns you into something you’re not, making you speak and act in a different way as if you literally do have bubbles in your head instead of an intellectual brain. Other themes that weave through the story are of course fantasy and adventure. I recommend this book based on those themes, as it’s interesting to get different perspectives on futuristic ideas and what society could turn out to be like if we all head in the direction we are. I also highly recommend this book based on the romantic themes, not only in this first novel, but in the following two of the trilogy. If any readers love books such as Switched by Amanda Hocking or the ever popular Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, then this book is for you, love, adventure and mystery all in one go.