When I first saw Uglies in the bookstore a couple years ago, I read the back of the novel and immediately rejected it for my then-13-year-old cousin. I was shopping for her birthday gift and didn’t want to give her a book about focusing on outward appearances. It took a little convincing from Marina (who lent me the books) to get it into my “pretty little head” that this book was more than just skin deep. The dystopian themes in the series reminds me of Brave New World and Animal Farm.
The premise of the series is in a post-Rusty world (which was essentially our society), all kids become Pretty on their sixteenth birthday. Then you get to move out of Uglyville and go to New Pretty Town and party all the time. When you’re a pretty, everything is fun and “bubbly”. The twist is when our main character, Tally, meets Shay — who doesn’t want to become pretty. Shay runs away the week before she’s supposed to turn pretty, leaving Tally. When the authorities realize that Shay has run away, they blackmail Tally into going into the wild to find her. But when Tally reaches the Smoke and gets to know the Smokies (the people that run away and choose to live as Uglies in the wild), she realizes that she doesn’t want to be pretty either.
Uglies and Pretties are the first two books in this series by Scott Westerfeld, and they tackle some very serious subject matter. Unlike other dystopian novels for young adults, this book doesn’t just imply Tally’s displeasure with the current regime. Tally and her friends openly rebel, plot, and deceive to free themselves from their mind-oppression. This series has strong themes that aren’t as subtle as another dystopian YA novel I just finished; the characters express open displeasure for the world’s current authorities. Westerfeld has a lot of commentary on the freedom of thought — and it is portrayed extremely well in Tally.
Speaking of Tally, I really like this character. She is a strong female character, but she is also flawed (and not just when she’s ugly). She has friend troubles, boy troubles, and problems with authority. I was compelled when she was in trouble, intrigued when she was crafty, and cringed when she was embarrassed.
I can’t tell you too much about what happens in Pretties without giving away the ending of Uglies. However, as soon as I closed the back cover of Uglies, I walked over to the bookshelf and picked up Pretties.