Monday, July 02, 2012

Book Review: The Uglies, by Scott Westerfield (2005, Simon & Schuster)

Recommended for ages 12-16.

Fifteen year-old Tally lives in a post-apocalyptic society where boys and girls from the ages of 12 to 16 are “Uglies”. Upon turning 16, everyone undergoes surgery to become “Pretties” – enhanced, beautiful people whose sole responsibility is to be beautiful, attend parties, and enjoy life. Tally has waited to be Pretty and join her friends in New Pretty Town when she meets Shay, who shares her birthday – but not her desire to be Pretty. Shay tells Tally about a place where they can run away and avoid the surgery, but Tally refuses to go, leaving Shay to run off on her own. On the day of Tally’s operation, the department of Special Circumstances informs her that she must find them and turn them in or they will see to it that she will be Ugly forever. As Tally learns about the secrets behind the Pretty operation, she has decisions to make – but will time run out before she can make the right one?

The Uglies is a morality tale in a post-apocalyptic setting. The society frowns upon the previous society, referred to as “Rusties”, for bringing about environmental catastrophe by abusing metal and other natural resources, but their society is built on the artificial, from the materials consumed to the people themselves. The “pretty” surgery takes place at age 16, what we consider a volatile age when many young men and women have body and image issues. Natural beauty no longer exists. When Tally is offered a choice – to betray her friend or remain ugly forever, she initially chooses betrayal; through her experiences, she learns that beauty is skin deep.

The Uglies has received numerous awards and designations, including the American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults (2006); Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best for Teens (2005); Kirkus Editor’s Choice (2005); New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” (2005); School Library Journal Best Books of the Year (2005); Texas Lone Star Reading List (2006-2007); VOYA‘s Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers (2005); Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Best Books For Young Adults (2006); YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults (2006); and YALSA Quick Picks Nominee (2006).

Author Scott Westerfeld’s website offers information about the author, his books, book trailers, and a discussion forum.

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