Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Friday, June 3, 2011

Title: Uglies
Genre: dystopian, young-adult
Series: Uglies series #1
Published: February 2005
Pages: 425
Rating: 3.5/5

The world that Tally Youngblood lives in seems to be idyllic. In her ultra-organized dystopian country everything is recyclable, everyone is a vegetarian and fighting, much less war and conflict, is unheard of. Once you're sixteen, you're in perfect health and you're gorgeous. Forever. You're invited to a literal life-long party where your only job is just to have fun with your fellow gorgeous citizens. Of course Tally never looked for more, or wanted anything but to be pretty until a new friend named Shay changes the course of her life.

This is not a perfect book. Far from it. There are large plotholes (black and white movies with "an English she could barely understand" but doesn't know the name David or what a roller coasters was/or Barbie?), inconsistencies (Tally doesn't know about trains but cars, though not used, are common knowledge?) and other errors.
Sometimes it was hard for me to look past the how nonlogical the characters and settings were and focus on the story. But it is a good book; an entertaining and thought-provoking dystopia where life is based entirely on surgically-created and updated looks. 

Tally was a decent protagonist. She was aggravatingly dense often, and grated on my nerves when "pretty" or "ugly" was every fourth word out of her mouth. Those two words are all she focuses on, thinks about for much of the four hundred page novel. For instance, when her only friend Shay leaves Tally for "forever", striking out into the dangerous wild, all Tally can muster up for her friend is to wish she she could have known what Shay looked like as a Pretty. It was a tear-my-hair-out moment for me as a reader. That clearly showed just how far into conforming with the ideals of her society Tally was, and what a struggle it would be for her to have independent thought. Unfortunately, and rather inexplicably, she grew on me. Slowly and creepingly, her narrative matured, improved as she had to face new situations and deal with things outside her dorm and New Pretty Town. Tally actually thought more about others, she repeatedly tried to do the right thing and generally stopped being so self-absorbed. Yes, the pretties are self-absorbed and vapid, but the point is the uglies aren't so I felt that Tally's maturation was overdue by the time it arrived.

The big revelation about what happens to the Pretties seemed like a rather large let-down to me. I saw that coming from before page one hundred, when Tally mentions how an Uglies' party would have fights but never a Pretty party.  However the "twist" made sense with the storyline so far in the book and with the ideals of Tally's "world", so I have no complaints about that except predictability. I hope that the next in the series, Pretties, shows a bit more originality and creativity. 

On the whole, this is a rather slow-starting novel; the initial escapade we discover Tally during was not interesting or riveting to me. I unfortunately had about fifty pages right at the crucial beginning that I read without any connection or involvement with the story. However, the novel picked up immensely when Tally met Shay and started thinking outside the prescribed lines, and things got interesting --and messy -- fast. I enjoyed the relationship between Shay and Tally because Shay was challenging and questioning rather than meek, brainless and accepting as most of the uglies and pretties seem to be. The relationship between Tally and David was different, mostly because David remained off-scene or distant for most of the book. He remains mostly a mystery, up to and through the very end. I would have liked to see more development for David, as well as the rest of the Smokies. I never felt that the romance/relationship between the two teens was authentic; it felt rushed, thrown into the novel as a random
opportunity for a plotline for maximum angst. 
The wording in the novel is pretty simplistic, and thus, very quick and easy to read. I think it was worth the few hours it took to read. It just needed a little more depth, more exposition on the characters. A mixed bag of good ideas with poor execution, with potential to become great.


  1. I totally disagree with you, but you give a detailed analysis for your opinion, so that's good!
    Mary, A Book A Day

  2. That's what I love about books: it's all subjective. I liked a lot about the book, it just ended up underwhelming me a bit. Glad you liked it thought :)

  3. Too bad -- I know lots of folks were excited about it but sometimes a book just doesn't strike right. Perhaps the sequel can better flesh out the world building and characters.


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