Bibliographic information: Uglies. Scott Westerfeld. Simon Pulse, 2005. $9.99. 425p. ISBN-13: 9781-416936381.
Summary: Fifteen year old Tally lives on the Uglies side, but once she turns sixteen she will be able to get plastic surgery like all other sixteen year olds and then she can live on the Pretty side. Her best friend has already been made pretty and is living on the Pretty side, so she is feeling kind of lonely. Then she meets a new friend, Shay, who says she doesn’t want to be made pretty and is planning on running away to the Smoke, an abandoned town on the outside. Tally is struggling to choose between her new best friend and becoming pretty. When Shay talks Tally into coming with her to the Smoke, Tally learns a whole new side to becoming pretty. When they do the cosmetic surgery to make you pretty, they also do a lobotomy on you so that you are no longer the same person you were before, and nobody remembers it. Now that Tally knows she wants to run away, but the Special Forces are on to her and things get heated.
Reading level and interest level: RL: age 12 and up IL: grade 6 and up
Review: This is a futuristic dystopian science fiction novel. There are two kinds of people in Westerfeld’s Uglies novel and that is ugly people and pretty people. And they don’t even generally live together. Once you turn sixteen you get to go under a cosmetic operation and be pretty afterward, however the down side to this is they also do a lobotomy on you to dumb you down so you are not the same person you were before. Becoming ‘pretty’ is what everybody wants, except for Shay, Tally’s new best friend. Tally can either follow Shay into the Smoke and stay ‘ugly’ or turn Shay in to the authorities and become ‘pretty’ like everyone else. However, circumstance change after Tally meets David, an ugly outsider, who fills her in and changes her mind about becoming pretty. Westerfeld does a great job on highlighting government conspiracies and the evils of Big Brother as well as urging people to be individuals and not conforming to a standard uniformity. Just because other people may do it doesn’t mean you should do it, personal free will is a gift that should be used. Also, you shouldn’t judge people by how they look.
Readers’ annotation: At age 16 you get to become drop dead gorgeous and go live with the Pretties. Instead of becoming pretty Tally decides to run away.
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: This book does a wonderful job of showing young adults that they should not worry about looks and should instead look inside a person before they judge them. Almost every teen worries about how they look and after reading this book they will better understand that looks are not always the most important thing about a person.
Issues present: The heavy positive emphasis on plastic surgery and judgment on people’s’ looks could easily be objected to in this novel. The plastic surgery issue could go either way, people could be offended that Westerfeld made it look so good, or that he made it seem so terrible in the end. Such things could influence young minds, however, teens know what they want and can make their own choices without a book. Besides Westerfeld does not overtly say that plastic surgery is good or bad. It just is.
Booktalk ideas: Introduce Tally’s character.
Ugly and pretty, those are the only types of people around.
Could becoming pretty really be that bad? Tally didn’t think so, until she met Shay.
Genre or subject: Science fiction: dystopian
Readalikes: Bumped, Crossed, Possession, Divergent
Author’s website: http://scottwesterfeld.com/
Awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2008), Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2008), Abraham Lincoln Award (2007)
Reviews: Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Uglies-Scott-Westerfeld/pid=235325; School Library Journal: http://bookverdict.com/details.xqy?uri=Product-62134443832648.xml; Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-86538-1; Kirkus Review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/scott-westerfeld/uglies/
Why I chose it: The concept of this book sounded interesting and I thought it would add a great book to my collection.