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“Uglies” and “Pretties” by Scott Westerfeld

March 26, 2008

Before I start, let me establish this: This trilogy is FABULOUS! This was one of our selected readings for book club, and I’d heard of it but had procrastinated on reading it. Silly me!

The story takes place in the future, on our planet. Tally Youngblood’s sixteenth birthday is approaching, and she can hardly wait, because in this world, when you turn sixteen, you turn pretty. She can hardly wait for the operation that will make her skin flawless, her face symmetrical… all of the things that are accepted as beautiful by society. Then she meets Shay, an Ugly her own age, who has a scandalous idea. Shay doesn’t want to be pretty. When Shay disappears, Tally is given a choice. Either she finds Shay and turns her in, or she remains ugly. Her choice not only changes her future, but the future of the world.

This book takes a deep look at the issue of self-image. The uglies- between the ages of twelve and fifteen- are regarded as lower in class, with no chance of a future until they turn pretty. The pretties live a life of comfort, parties, champagne, fancy clothes, and complete lack of responsibility. The theme of stereotype is also analyzed; the pretties are absolute airheads.

Though this may seem a bit far-fetched, think about it for a moment. Take a look at our culture: plastic surgery is the norm. Celebs parade around in barely-there dresses, get all sorts of plastic surgery “Fix-ups” and spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on clothing. Who decides who and what is beautiful? Not everyone buys into the plastic surgery, however, so I doubt the extreme level of superficial behavior found in “Uglies” is anywhere in the near future. However, people are judged on looks all the time.

Westerfeld challenges the idea of judging other based on looks and social status in “Uglies”.

“Pretties” continues the story in the first book. Tally is a new pretty, thoroughly enjoying her life of partying and non-stop fun. When a message from her past arrives, she remembers what’s wrong with being a pretty, and decides to do something about it. This second installment is as interesting as the first, if not more so.

These books are great reads, whether you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy or not.

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