Book Review: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, by Scott Westerfeld

 

It’s a three-fer deal in today’s review!  I read Uglies, Pretties, and Specials over this past Christmas break and found the trilogy very well-written, a fast read, with lots of action and plenty of food for thought.

In the world of this trilogy, everyone is an “ugly” until their 16th birthday, when they undergo a complex and invasive surgery to make them a “pretty.”  Every piece of you is affected, clear down to the grinding of your bones to make you the perfect shape and height.  The purpose of creating this utopia of beauty is to eliminate envy, differences, war.  But the heroine of the trilogy, Tally Youngblood, soon learns that something inherently personal and vital also gets eliminated in the process.

This book asks a lot of questions about the ultimate desirability of homogeny, and it puts you in a position to wonder, “What would I choose?  Beauty and ease?  Or a world of insiders/outsiders, pain, resistance?”  Westerfeld does very well in showing every detail of his futuristic world – the technology and customs and even the governments are very interesting.  I was also interested by how our current generation – called the “Rusties” in these books – are portrayed, and how Westerfeld envisions our tragic end.

The three novels tie together well, although I believe the first is far superior to the second and third.  I was impressed, however, with how Westerfeld makes the reader care for and relate to Tally, even as she evolves into something farther and farther from what she wants.  (but that’s another question, too:  how authentic are all of her protestations?  again…food for thought)  I finished each book thinking, “Now how on earth am I going to still like Tally if she’s becoming one of those?”  But again and again, I followed and rooted for her.

I have just one reservation in my applause for these books.  One of the groups that gains prominence in the story is called the “Cutters.”  Filled with angst and fueled by raw emotion, they achieve a particular mental/physical “high” when they cut themselves with special knives.  With this being such a frightening trend that happens in the REAL world of today’s teens, I was disturbed that such a group would get so much play time in these novels.  I should say that the author seems to ultimately be condemning them and their actions, but as far as cautionary tales go, I think the message comes a little too late.  The characters are established as “special” far too strongly to then be looked down on later for their behavior.  This might be something to think about or plan on discussing if you are considering these books for a teenager.

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