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Uglies
Scott Westerfeld
Simon & Schuster, 448 pages

Uglies
Scott Westerfeld
Scott Westerfeld's teen novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, The Last Days, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to Peeps. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.

Scott Westerfeld Website
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SF Site Review: Fine Prey
SF Site Review: Fine Prey
SF Site Review: Polymorph

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A review by Dan Shade

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Tally Youngblood is ugly but so is everyone else under the age of sixteen. At age sixteen, a person has a special surgical procedure that makes their body (and mind?) conform to a stereotypical idea of pretty. Thus, the Pretties. My impression from reading the book that these children are not truly ugly. They look like you and I, normal, so to speak.

Tally is in school. Learning seems to be the primary task for Uglies whereas having fun and partying is for Pretties. Tally is a pro at sneaking out at night to cross the river and spy on the Pretty life style. She travels via her Back To The Future hoverboard upon which she is fairly skilled. Tally has some pretty (no pun intended) exciting adventures among the Pretties before she meets Shay.

Shay is another female ugly and they become instant friends. Super friends with most things in common except this one issue. Shay does not want to be a Pretty. She thinks it is a government plan to control the population. Shay plans to run, on her sixteenth birthday, to a rumored safe haven called the Smoke. The Smoke is the home to people who want to live free of government control. Shay tries to talk Tally into running with her but Tally wants to be a Pretty. Shay gives Tally directions to the Smoke, in case she changes her mind.

Tally's mind is changed for her. The Specials, who have been trying to find the Smoke for years, blackmail Tally. She must lead them to the Smoke or never get the operation to make her a Pretty. She is bugged with audio/video microchips and sent on her way. The closer she gets, the worse she feels. Does she want to be unique or pretty all her life? Does she want to give up her friendship with Shay?

This is an interesting dystopia easily open to a prequel. There is so much we don't know about the conditions that left American society as ugly (pun intended) as we find in this book. What cataclysmic event shaped this society? Where are the parents of the Uglies? Uglies live in dorms until they become a Pretty. No Ugly in the book seems to have a remembrance of a family. No one talks about their family and how much they miss them. All they know is life at school and becoming a Pretty. Is this the work of a government gone wild? Is it the result of an effort to perfect mankind? Perhaps we'll learn more in the sequels.

(This review first appeared on Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show.)

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at lostbooks.org (under construction).


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