YA Review: Uglies

Title: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld

Tally and Peris have been best friends forever. The three-month gap between them has never been a problem, until Peris turns sixteen and has the operation. He is transformed from an Ugly to a Pretty, and moves with the other sixteen-year-olds to New Pretty Town. He promises to keep in touch, but Tally only receives one brief message from her friend. With three months to go before her own operation, she’s desperate to see Peris again, even though Uglies are banned from New Pretty Town.

While she waits for her birthday, Tally meets another Ugly who is also counting down the days until she turns sixteen – but Shay isn’t like Tally. She doesn’t want to go through the operation and become someone else’s idea of pretty. There’s no way to escape the operation without running away, but Shay has a plan, and somewhere to run to. As she spends time with Shay, Tally is torn between the friend who abandoned her, and the friend who wants to leave the city for good.

Uglies is an engaging YA dystopia that takes a critical look at what it means to grow up. Do you live your best life by conforming, changing yourself to fit in, and living in luxury – or by staying true to yourself, and working hard to survive outside the society that won’t accept you as you are? The author is careful to present a balanced choice. New Pretty Town is a place of constant parties where everything – food, drink, shelter, clothing – is provided and the biggest concern is wearing the right outfit in order to fit in. It sounds like a fun place to live, and the Pretties certainly seem to enjoy their lives. Living outside the city is hard work. Food must be hunted or grown, clothes must be made by hand, and surviving every day involves hard physical work. Tally is genuinely torn between her two possible futures, and her two best friends, and it is easy to see what makes her uncertain.

Tally is a relatable main character, trying to make the right decisions at every point in the story. She doesn’t always succeed, but she understands that living with those decisions might mean taking brave actions to make up for her mistakes. The characters around her feel real, and her relationships with them are not always straightforward. As she faces the decisions she must make as she reaches her sixteenth birthday, Tally’s doubts and uncertainties are entirely understandable, driving the story to unexpected places. The bad guys are scary without ever slipping into cartoon-villain territory, and the world building is just detailed enough to create a believable dystopian setting.

I enjoyed Uglies, and picked up the second book in the series as soon as I’d turned the final page.

Have you read Uglies? What did you think of Tally’s story? Would you have made the same choices? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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3 Replies to “YA Review: Uglies”

  1. There’s 7 in the series! It never quite appealed enough to me to pick up the next one. Fun but obvious with basic science errors that always annoy me when they’re unnecessary. Quite a brave social experiment though.

    1. Isn’t it four in the series? I’m planning to review ‘Pretties’, ‘Specials’ and ‘Extras’ here over the next month or so. Maybe I can tempt you back!

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