Book Review: Uglies

Alaina Galasso, Opinions Editor

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is yet another science fiction and dystopian novel centered around a failed attempt to perfect society. In Uglies everyone is turned “pretty” after a mandatory surgery that occurs on their sixteenth birthday. The story begins when the protagonist, an “ugly” named Tally, is three months away from becoming a pretty like her previous best friend Peris. Tally meets a rebellious girl named Shay, who soon reveals that she never wishes to turn pretty but instead plans on running away to a place beyond the city’s limits. Tally denies Shay’s invitation to join her but gets stuck between a rock and hard place. A secret group within the city called Special Circumstances refuses to give her the surgery unless Tally finds where Shay went and reveals the runaways’ location. The rest of the novel follows Tally’s journey to find Shay in a place called “the Smoke” and depicts Tally’s constant struggle between betraying her new friend so she can return to her old one or giving up everything she has ever dreamed of. By the end it is revealed the government was not the perfect, ethical one it claimed to be.

Many people recommended this novel to me but I found it rather disappointing. Although the idea behind the book is intriguing and the themes of  beauty, identity and perfection are appealing, I did not feel that the story was well-executed. The writing is choppy and undescriptive; unable to hold my interest for very long. The vocabulary is of an extremely lower level and the character descriptions are short and non-captivating. The characters themselves are rather bland with little personality besides their hope (or lack of) to become pretty. Tally is selfish and completely willing to betray her friend for her own benefit, which would be understable if the readers were able to see more of her thought process., The third person perspective prevents readers from getting to know the characters and makes them seem less believable. The outcome of the novel in all is predictable as is the idea that the government is corrupt and a rebellion must occur.  The book does improve slightly as it goes along, but the beginning is dramatically slow and difficult to get into and even then the plot “twists” are not incredibly mind-blowing. This may be one of the first cases in which foreshadowing is taken too far and the emotional appeal is not at all present.

If you are looking for dystopian-style book then I personally believe that there are better options. Uglies pales in comparison next to great dystopias like The Hunger Games, Delirium, and Divergent. If you truly want to become attached to the characters and their struggles then these other books have the same appeal of Uglies, and in addition they also have elegant writing and well-developed plot and characters. I would only recommend Uglies if you have read many other books of this genre and are desperately looking for a fix or if you are of a younger age looking for just another read.