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Uglies by Scott Westerfeld - Review.

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Publication Date: Available now from Simon and Schuster.

 

Source: Purchased Copy

 

Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.
But Tally’s new friend, Shay, isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world – and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

 

I read “Afterworlds” recently, the new novel coming soon (Sept 25th 2014) from Scott Westerfeld and enjoyed it so much that I basically went out and purchased his backlist. I started here with “Uglies” the first part of a trilogy, set in a dystopian future world where looks are everything. Or are they?

 

In the world that Tally lives in, a world devastated by we are not sure what, when you turn 16 you are operated on and turned “Pretty”. All flaws are removed, your features are changed and you become fairly generically beautiful. After which you go to one long life party. Sounds fantastic right? Yeah, well not so much perhaps….

 

When Tally meets Shay and finds out there is a whole world out there she knew nothing about, she is torn between two lives and ends up having to make some devastating decisions. And therein lies the beauty (yes that was on purpose) of this story.

The thing about “Uglies” is that so much of it could come to pass – in a world where everyone looks the same, supposedly no-one will fight over differences. When you are spending your time drinking eating and being merry, you do not think too much about how controlled your life actually is, how every decision has been made for you. I liked the exploration of that idea, the standard YA premise of a government that controls the masses to their own ends but with a great take on it and a depth that was very entertaining and often fascinating.

 

In this particular case it is the strength of the characterisation that made it for me. Tally is horrifically shallow when we first meet her, and she struggles with the concept that beauty cannot be defined by how far apart your eyes are, or your body mass or anything else. She rejects it utterly, is fully supportive of the rules of her society and is not immediately persuaded that there could be a different way to live. She simply cannot imagine ANYONE not wanting to turn Pretty. Shay is a perfect foil for this inner turmoil, she wants to choose her own destiny, but as things move forward you may find yourself wondering which of the pair is actually the shallow one, a clever little twist on the original premise. Add to these various supporting characters both within the world of the “Uglies” and outside of it and there are some really intriguing themes explored here.

 

Putting all that aside, it is also a terrific adventure, a really run read, the world building is subtle and forms around the characters rather than the other way around and there are some surprising moments that make you stop for a while and ponder. The story flows extremely well, and the ending will leave you looking forward to “Pretties” the next in the trilogy and one that I shall certainly be onto as soon as  time allows.

 

Highly Recommended for fans of YA Dystopia, both teenagers and adults, there is something for everyone.

 

Happy Reading Folks!