Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.
But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty. 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 a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally’s choice will change her world forever …
In this seriously bizarre world that Westerfeld has envisioned, wars, civil unrest, jealousy and alienation are all things of the past – because when a person turns 16 they undergo plastic surgery and are given the qualities of a desirable mate – huge eyes, full lips, even skin-tone, the list goes on. Bones are changed so everyone is the same height, fat is sucked out, plastic cheekbones are inserted under the skin. This is a world that promotes equality and achieves it by eliminating the differences between individuals. And it creeped me out from the blurb onwards. It’s frightening because on a basic level it makes sense, but it violates everything I know and believe about being proud of individuality.
My favourite aspect of the book have to be the mysterious Special Circumstances people – they sound like a truly scary bunch! With all their special augmentation they behave more like robots than human beings, and I think they creeped me out more than anything else about this world. Dr. Cable is a great villain as the classic evil doctor. I can totally imagine her with her lab coat and maniacal laughing as she operates on Uglies. Another aspect of the world I enjoyed was the society in The Smoke. They are so normal to me and yet at the same time so alien to Tally, and I enjoyed reading how they survive outside of the influence of the cities. One of my favourite scenes is when Tally realises that children used to resemble their parents before the operations. I think it was really well done and showcased exactly how much humanity had lost.
Tally is a hard character for me to like – she’s in many ways the anti-thesis to other female YA heroines. She hungers for the operation and counts down the days until her birthday. She firmly believes in her society and doesn’t understand why Shay, her new friend, wouldn’t want the operation.When Tally is blackmailed into journeying to The Smoke, a hidden community of people like Shay who ran away before they could have the operation, she is happy to do it, thinking she will be rescuing Shay from a horrible fate. It is only when Tally reaches The Smoke and learns the awful secret behind the operations that she changes her mind about it all. However, her strong belief in the system is shattered in only a few days – she goes from being disgusted at the uglies to being friends with them, sharing their meals and even kissing one of them. It’s all too quick and doesn’t make sense given how conditioned she was to her society before.
A clever and enjoyable story, Uglies has certainly made an impression on me and now I completely understand what the hype is about. I have the rest of the series sitting on my shelves, so I will be reading it as soon as I can. If you love a good dystopian novel and haven’t tried this book yet, then I strongly recommend it to you!
About the book: