Wednesday, 30 May 2012

'Uglies' by Scott Westerfeld

The second book I read for the Goodreads challenge was 'Uglies' by Scott Westerfeld. It is the first book in  a trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, Specials), though there is a fourth book set in the same world but it is a different city and protagonist (Extras). I've read all four this year, so I shall be reviewing them all over time.

I had heard a lot about this book before I read it. It was one that I saw repeatedly mentioned across the interwebs, especially in recommendations for dystopian books. I've been really enjoying dystopian lately, so I thought it was time to read 'Uglies'.

What's it about?
It is set in a world which has been destroyed by the human race, and has had to rebuild society. It is place where every one is 'ugly' until they reach the age of sixteen.  The Uglies are ordinary human faces, but when they turn sixteeen everyone undergoes a transformation into a 'Pretty'. The operation is to make everyone equal in terms of looks, and it makes everyone 'bubbly'. Once 'Pretty' the teenagers are allowed to cross the bridge and move into New Pretty Town, where they're only purpose it have a good time.

The protagonist in 'Uglies' is a fifteen year old girl called Tally. Tally can't wait to be Pretty and join her friends in New Pretty Town. However Tally meets a new friend, Shay, who doesn't want to be Pretty, and would rather risk the world outside their town. Shay longs to join the mysterious Smokies in The Smoke, which are a group of Uglies who refused to turn pretty. The authorities fear the Smokies, so when Shay runs away, Tally learns that not all is as it seems, and there is a not very pretty side to being Pretty. She is given an ultimatum by the authorities who are desperate to find Shay and the Smokies - find Shay and hand her to the authorities, or never turn Pretty.

What did I think of it?
I found this book to be a very addictive read. I was hooked from page one and I read the book in one sitting, which at 425 pages of large font, doesn't take too long.  The writing style is not high brow literature- unusual words and detailed descriptions aren't commonplace in this novel- but it is written in a fluent and easy to read style. The plot is well thought out, and believable, which is I think is important in a dystopian novel, as often the main dystopian plot device can be a little too science fiction, and difficult to fully believe. The technology in this book wasn't too hard to swallow and the explanation of how the world fell into it's current state was interesting and logical.  The characters are fairly well developed and Westerfeld weaves the plot together very well.

I really enjoyed the concept of this book, and the idea of brainwashing people into a certain view of what is pretty was interesting. At one point in the book Tally meets a character who hasn't had the operation and she is disgusted by his ugliness - he's only 40! She is also revolted when she sees a magazine from our current time, and the the models in it do not meet her idea of pretty. A funny thought when in today's society, they are what is considered 'pretty'. She is also very surprised when she realises that looks are hereditary- she notices a son looks like his father. It seems so crazy to not know that, but in this world, the characters are are completely brainwashed from birth into believing being Pretty is everything. Westerfeld gives a great insight into a world which allows Pretty to be valued over personality and skills. It acts almost like a warning to society, to remember that Pretty is not everything, in a world where the idea that Pretty is best is constantly reinforced by glossy magazines, television and film. This book also raises the questions- how much control should those in power have? How much should you question the world around you? Should so few be allowed to make decisions for so many?

I found with this book that although I did like Tally as a main character in this book (not so much in the later books- more on those in a separate post), and I did care about her fate, and the fate of the other major characters,  it wasn't so much the characters that kept me reading. It was more learning about the world they live in, and unravelling the conspiracies that hooked me.


Goodreads Reading Challenge
This book is number 2 out of 50

1 comment:

  1. I love reading and haven't read a book for a while but really like the sound of this one :)

    Tanesha x