Summary: In Tally's world, no one is judged on his or her looks because at the age of 16, everyone becomes "pretty." Tally wants nothing more than to turn pretty like her friend Peris (Westerfeld and Suzanne Collins should have a "stupid character name" convention), so she can stop being an "ugly." However, when Tally meets a new friend Shay, Tally learns that some people don't want to be pretty. Soon Tally is in The Smoke, a hidden camp for those escaping the mandatory cosmetic--and other--changes.
Musings: I never would have picked up this book on my own. With a huge teenage face on the cover and a title like Uglies, Westerfeld's novel sounds more like a cliched version of Mean Girls than the dystopian literature it is. So I'm especially glad the reading challenge brought the book to my attention.
Like in most good dystopian novels, Tally's world has many benefits. People are no longer prejudiced against because of their looks, and the new society is environmentally conscious (even vegetarian!). Of course, there are obvious drawbacks. People look and act essentially the same and are manipulated into believing that happiness can only come from symmetry - conformity. Some of the messages (of the dangers of both our current society and Tally's futuristic society) are obvious, but the characters don't feel dull.
I always love a good YA romance, and this book doesn't fail as Tally finds herself falling for David, an "ugly" and lifelong Smoke resident. Unlike in other YA books (ahem, Stephenie Meyer), Tally doesn't agonize over decision to like David very long and their romance is even more exciting (and painful) because of the lies Tally has been forced to tell.
Uglies is the first of a four-part series, so the novel, of course, leaves with a big cliff hanger about Tally's future. I'll definitely pick up the next book in the series, but right now I have to decide whether I'll barrel through the second right away or take a couple weeks off and read other books first.
- See my reviews of book two in the series, Pretties, and book three in the series, Specials.