Imagine a World where Everyone is Physically Beautiful

You know how book-selling sites like to recommend books and authors based on what you’ve read/bought form them before? Normally I ignore such recommendations. Mostly because these sites seem to think that Dean Koontz is akin to Stephen King. No. Not even close. King SHOWS and Koontz TELLS. (That’s all I have to say about that for the moment.) But for once I went ahead and tried out a recommendation. It was: Like The Hunger Games? Try Uglies.

So I read opted to read Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld. The author’s pacing is a bit fast. Okay, it’s really fast. But considering that the novels are geared for youth I think it makes sense. You won’t get bored reading these books, that’s for sure. The action and plot movement is basically non-stop, and the world Westerfeld creates becomes entirely believable despite it’s fantastical premise.

The story takes place in the future. After civilization basically implodes on itself and nearly destroys the earth. In order to protect the earth, everyone lives in cities where nearly everything is recycled. Everyone is also very closely watched by their cities wardens to prevent mischief from going too far. Something else is different in this future world, in this world, everyone gets an operation when they turn 16 which makes them “Pretty.” They teach the younger kids (called “Uglies”) in school about what the world was like before the operation. A world in which people were judged by how they were born looking like. How some people got better jobs and better pay just because they were better looking. Also, way back when, some people were even killed jut because their skin was a different color. The solution? Everyone is made pretty at 16. No one has an advantage over anyone else. Everyone is made the same.

The main character of the novel, Tally, looks forward to her operation eagerly. For all of her young life, she has been taught that her physical appearance is biologically inferior. She focuses on her imperfections, and fantasizes of the day they will be removed and corrected through surgery. She is the youngest in her group of friends so she is basically left alone when they go on to become Pretty.

Then she meets Shay. Shay doesn’t want to become pretty. She tries to convince Tally to run away with her into the wild, where they can meet up with other runaways and make a life without the operation. Tally declines, but is later forced to run away to find Shay anyway. The government manipulates her into betraying the runaways or she won’t be able to get her operation.

While in the encampment of the runaways, Tally finds out the truth of the operation. The surgeons do much more than alter the physical appearance of the 16-year-olds’ bodies, they also plant legions into their brains to basically stupefy the population into submission. With her new-found knowledge, Tally joins the side of the rebellion. From then on, the battle for freedom from the city authorities magnifies, reaching nearly impossible odds.

In the first book of the series, Tally is an Ugly. In the second book, she has to give herself up and become a Pretty to help see if the cure for the brain legions will work. She has to cope with having a hazy brain and feeling like there is nothing wrong with her at all. Except, maybe figuring out which dress to wear to the next party. Then, her old friends from the wild give her the cure – and everything in Pretty-ville gets knocked upside down.

Having demonstrated her ability to succeed in the first and second book, the city government makes the logical decision to recruit Tally (by force) to join their operation. In the third book of the series, Specials, Tally receives a few alterations of her body and brain, she becomes a member of their elite police force, known as Special Circumstances (kind of like the future CIA.) She is designed specifically to keep the Uglies from rebellion and keep the Pretties bubble-heads.

It seems like the series concludes with the third book, but Westerfeld has in fact written a fourth edition, entitled Extras. I wasn’t going to snatch it up until I read it’s summary, “One of the features of the new world is that everyone has a “feed,” which is basically their own blog/myspace/tv channel. The ratings of your feed (combined with how much the city interface overhears people talking about you) determines your social status–so everyone knows at all times how famous they are. As Scott Westerfeld explored the themes of extreme beauty in the first three Uglies books, now he takes on the world’s obsession with fame and popularity. And how anyone can be an instant celebrity.”

Okay. That sounds awesome. So I’m off to read “Extras” and finish off the series. I’ll let you know if it’s as awesome as it sounds!


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