Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Imagine a world where plastic surgery uses the science of beauty to make everything about your body into what science says is the “ideal.” Would you be perfect? The governments in Scott Westerfeild’s Uglies think so.
Uglies is a clean dystopian novel about the allure of beauty and what it means to be true to yourself. The book questions both the need to stay the same when technology could make you better and expecting blind conformity.
Why you need to read Uglies
I don’t think there has been a book that surprised me more with its hidden depth than Scott Westerfeild’s Uglies did. On the surface, it is about a girl, Tally, who just wants to undergo the surgery to become a “pretty,” but can’t until she helps the city leaders find her runaway friend, Shay. One could read this and find it shallow and vain, but there is so much more to it than that.
Yes, Tally does what the city leaders ask her to do, even though it will hurt her friend, because they won’t let her become pretty. She leaves the city and follows Shay’s clues, even at the risk of her life, for the chance to become a pretty. Even when she finds Shay and makes friends in a group of runaways, she still wants to become pretty; that fact never changes.
Does that make Tally shallow? I don’t think so. It is not wrong to want to change yourself to be closer to your own ideal. Many of us want to be stronger, thinner, more outgoing, or even less bald (totally not me). We all make choices that lead us towards these goals. That does not make us shallow. The entire human experience is about change, growth, and achieving our own unique goals.
Although Uglies does have some romance, it is light hearted and does not get beyond a kiss.
So, even in that aspect, readers of all sensibilities shouldn’t have many qualms about this series. Speaking of the series, there are three books in the main series: Uglies, Pretties, and Specials. There is also an extra fourth book about different characters, Extras, but some of the main characters from the original cast play pivotal roles later on.
What reading level is Uglies?
Uglies portrays two contrasting ideals: be happy with who you are and not what others want you to be, and striving for beauty. Tally agrees with the science behind the “pretties” procedure. There are, in fact, certain traits that humans innate find more attractive and appealing. Reactions to beauty can even be monitored with brain scans. So, Tally’s desire to be a pretty isn’t just selfishness. It is a change that is within her power and something that she wants for herself. The other side of the argument comes from Shay and the other runaways. They don’t want to be forced to change. They don’t want to blindly conform to an enforced standard of beauty. The runaways just want to be left to themselves to live a peaceful life of their own, not run by a conformity based society. Their desires are just as valid as Tally’s. Westerfield brings up valid arguments for both sides of the issue throughout the book, and I found myself contemplating both issues as I read. This is not a vapid book whatsoever.
Readers of nearly any age will enjoy reading Uglies. From middle school to adults, Uglies is a great choice. I would think that even some sixth graders would be able to access and enjoy the book.
Granted, some of the writing might be too advanced for most grade schoolers, but it is at a reading level that I would have read and enjoyed at that age. Voracious readers, even younger ones, shouldn’t have any trouble with this series.
I highly encourage you to give this series a try. The books and their descriptions are listed below.
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 stunningly attractive 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.
Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun—the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom—is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.
Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life—because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.
Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.
But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.
Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until she’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.
A few years after rebel Tally Youngblood takes down the Specials regime, a cultural renaissance sweeps the world. “Tech-heads” flaunt their latest gadgets, “kickers” spread gossip and trends, and “surge monkeys” are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. Popularity rules, and everyone craves fame.
Fifteen-year-old Aya Fuse is no exception. But Aya’s face rank is so low, she’s a total nobody. An extra. Her only chance at stardom is to kick a wild and unexpected story.
Then she stumbles upon a big secret. Aya knows she is on the cusp of celebrity. But the information she is about to disclose will change both her fate…and that of the brave new world.
Thanks for reading!
Author at Living Words Press
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I see how words surround us every day. Life is a construct and words the vehicles of understanding.