I’m glad I picked up a copy of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld at the last library book sale and I immediately gave it to my granddaughter when I finished it. The premise is provocative. When children turn sixteen, they are given surgery to become Pretties where they can enjoy the freedom of partying and wearing the best styles. Their only responsibility, it seems, is to be Pretty.
Tally Youngblood is the novel’s protagonist and from the first few pages the reader learns that she is rebellious, a risk-taker, and eager to become Pretty. She meets another girl, Shay, who shares her birthday but has no interest in ever having the surgery. So when Shay disappears before the surgery, Tally is enlisted by the government to find where she has run off to, to expose a rebel community and bring all of the escaped Uglies back to have the surgery. Unless she cooperates, Tally won’t be allowed to have the surgery to which she had been looking forward her entire life.
Westerfeld does an excellent job of building a believable world, one in which conformity is encouraged. It reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder” without the novel ever feeling derivative. Tally’s motivation is clearly defined and her actions never contradict her character. As with many of these novels, her parents are left on the periphery so her primary relationships are rooted in her peers. Unfortunately, the novel ends on a cliffhanger, which I hate. Truth is, I would have wanted to read the sequel even without the way this novel ends. I’m eager to read Pretties.