Review: Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Monday, June 27, 2011

Title: Pretties
Genre: dystopia, young-adult
Series: Uglies #2
Pages: 370 (paperback version)
Published: November 2005
Source: bought
Rating: 3/5

I liked Pretties for almost all the same reasons that I liked the previous book Uglies. It's a semi-unique story in a pretty saturated niche market that is easy and quick to read. The idea of a government entity using looks and sex appeal as a population control is genius and innovative. This second novel is better than the first for a number of valid reasons, but I still felt a little underwhelmed. The basic plot structure seemed vaguely repetitive because in the first Tally Youngblood was an Ugly but longing to be a Pretty, and now she's a Pretty longing to be in the exclusive clique of Crims, she has to relearn about the Smoke like in the first book, Shay and Tally clash/reunite, etc. The first sixty pages felt almost like a reread of Uglies first hundred pages.

The depth that was sorely lacking in the first novel Uglies is present here as well. More details about day-to-day life in New Pretty Town are supplied, and even more information about the "Rusties" [aka humans from around now in history] emerge, but the characters like Tally, David, Shay themselves never grow and mature as the events in their lives unfold. They remain essentially the same self-absorbed teenagers from the first novel. I've read multiple YA where a necessary, and not complete maturation was handled admirably well, and I wished for such a development here. There were a few plotholes in the novel (how did the Smokies hack the dress requirements for the party without computers? and saying explicity that the operation of becoming a Pretty ensures no bruises, but prettified-Tally and her friends are bruised after the prank with the ice rink) but they were less prevalent than in Uglies.

The pseudo-slang that Westerfeld has created for his pretties is basically inane and unoriginal. "Bogus" "bubbly" "pretty-making" "[xxxx]-missing" just seemed like half-efforts at how brainless teenagers might talk. And it was annoying to read, page in and page out. I just kept wishing for a real grammar structure or an intelligent conversation. The pretties are supposed to vapid and dull, and the way they talk certainly impresses that aspect firmly into the narrative and into my brain FOREVER. I did like the names of the Mansions in New Pretty Town (Valentino Mansion, Garbo Mansion, Denzel Park...etc); I thought that was an amusing and clever way to subtly direct attention to who the "Rusties" were.

I enjoyed Zane. I didn't appreciate what he represented (the introduction to the inevitable YA love-triangle, something I've ranted on about at length, but I digress) but he was a fresh, intriguing character in Tally's life. I was happy to see (finally!) a Pretty who had recognized that something was off in their world. The romance aspect of the novel took a back seat to action, an editorial decision I more than endorse for this series. I was sad to see Tally and Shay's friendship end because in this series so far, most relationships are between the sexes, with girls only competing against each other or openly hostile towards one another. Tally herself annoyed me in the beginning because she was back in the vapid mental state I remembered and loathed from book one. As the story moves along, I could begin to tolerate her more. The evolution of Shay through the book was one of its highlights. Instead of being a vapid dull pretty, Shay takes things into her own hands and ends up completely different than the runaway from book one. Shay is more malevolent and interesting than Dr. Cable as an antagonist. Shay is just more interesting as an antagonist period. 

The ending, like the ending of the first one, left me vaguely depressed and unsettled. I can see the reasoning for Tally turning Pretty in book one so they can test the cure, but Westerfeld AGAIN "improves" Tally at the end of book two. I can't help but feel it's not as beneficial for the story as leaving her normal/pretty would have been. The author basically undermines the entire message he's been preaching for two going on threefour books. Add in that it seemed like a lot of the plot for this sequel was recycled. One time felt like a cliff-hanger, two times just makes it a unimaginative sequel.

This is a solid three star book. I had hopes that this book would improve over the original, but it remains at the same average grade that its predecessor did. It is enjoyable to read, but fails to be anything more than bubble-gum entertainment.

If you're interested in another take on this popular novel, head on over here to Agrippina's review. Happy reading!


  1. yay another YA love triangle hater *waves and shakes your hand* HELLO!

    I have been meaning to read these books for a while but I am constantly putting them back on the book shop shelf. One day I will get round to them.

    Thanks for the post.

    I just found your blog today and I'm a new follower.

    Blethering About Books

  2. *waves* HI! It's one of my biggest pet peeves -- nice to know I am not the only one!
    And thanks for the link! I'm a new follower of yours! I love your background.. who designed your blog? :)

  3. Fantastic review - I really enjoyed reading your in-depth thoughts on Pretties. I hope you don't mind me linking here from my own review.

    PS: New follower :)

  4. Agrippina: first I love your name! Second, that's totally fine. I can link back, even!


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