Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse

Pages: 406

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license – for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all.

The choice Tally makes changes her world forever…

 

Uglies deals with an issue I am very interested in/concerned about: expectations of how we should look. We change our appearances – through makeup and even plastic surgery – to try and reach those expectations. And who can blame us, really, when we’re having magazines shoved in our faces that are full of photographs of photoshopped models. Anyway, I will stop ranting and get onto the book.

So, yes, the premise intrigued me so I decided to find out what this was all about. In Tally’s world, everyone gets made pretty when they turn sixteen. But her friend, Shay, doesn’t want to turn pretty and runs away. I thought it was great that Westerfeld chose to narrate from the point of view of someone who believes in the system. In many YA dystopia novels the protagonist hates the system and wants to get out of it, but here we have a protagonist who is desperate to turn pretty and thinks her friend is crazy for running away and wanting to stay ugly. This aspect of the novel was really refreshing.

In terms of characters I really liked Tally as a main character and her character arc is excellent, we really see her change throughout the novel. A lot of reviews I’ve read said they don’t like Tally at all, and I can see where they are coming from, but I really felt intrigued by all her internal conflicts and development. I thought Shay was great too, her characterisation was done very well. One thing that needed more work was David. I felt his characterisation was very weak, there was nothing about his personality that stood out and I found him very flat. And guess what, we find ourselves reading yet another young adult book which includes a love triangle. I shouldn’t have been surprised really, though, should I?

The world building is very good, it’s well developed and very clear. There’s also a lot of cool technology like hoverboards and a lot of it is really inventive. There were lots of twists and turns in the plot that kept me gripped, and there were a couple of heart-in-mouth moments where there were revelations I wasn’t expecting. At no point did I find myself bored, I was always wanting to know what would happen next. By no means is this an edge-of-your-seat-thriller, but it did keep me glued to the pages in an unusual way, I can’t really describe it.

Overall, one of the better young adult dystopia’s I’ve read, and is definitely unique. I’m very excited to read the rest of the series and already have them on my shelf waiting!

Want to know if the rest of the series is worth reading? Check out my reviews of book 2, Pretties, and book 3, Specials.

 

 

Writing Corner: Choosing a Point of View + Beginning Your Story

A lot of writers have a point of view (POV) they like writing from best i.e. first person or third person. It can be challenging to move out of your comfort zone but sometimes experimenting can be a lot of fun. When choosing a POV for your novel there are several things to consider, and pros and cons to different viewpoints.

First Person

First person narrative can be really great for getting inside a characters head. You can use this type of POV to really show the emotions and feelings your character is going through. One of the limits of first person, though, is that you only get to see the story from one characters POV. It is possible to switch to another characters first person POV for some chapters but be careful when doing this! It is very hard when doing this to make sure the narratives of the characters are different. For the most part, I would say only do this if absolutely necessary or if it gives something to the story.

For example, in my novel The Water That Sings is part is written from the first person POV of a different character. But I did this for a reason: to show how mental illness impacts on not only the sufferer but also their family and friends. In this case, it was very important to me to use both first person and multiple narratives.

Third Person

When your story has multiple protagonists third person can be very useful. It isn’t as personal as first person meaning it can often be more difficult to portray the characters feelings. But it is more flexible than first person and so works well with multiple characters.

Past or Present Tense

Most books are written in past tense and I know a lot of people find it difficult to write in present tense. I think present tense works best when combined with first person, but it is hard to pull off, so only write this way if you feel comfortable with it. If present tense seems like a daunting challenge then just stick with past tense.

Which Character?

Usually, it is very obvious which character’s POV the story should be told from. But it can be interesting to go for the less obvious choice and can give a new spin on things. How about writing from the best friends POV? Think about this, and come to a decision about who the plot impacts most. But also think about whose POV would be most interesting.

The Beginning

The opening of your story is vital. You need to grab your reader, and if you are trying to get published then you need to grab that agent/publishers. The ‘beginning’ of your story is comprised of your first line, first paragraph, first page, and first chapter. One way to grab the reader is to start with action. No nonsense, just diving straight in. But not all well-known books have an action-packed first chapter, but in that case you need to make sure your style and character(s) is captivating.

First line/paragraph – you need to come up with a clever and imaginative way to open.

First page – make sure you don’t dawdle in your first page, or your reader won’t bother making the effort to turn to the next one. E.g. the main character (MC) getting up for school one morning is one that annoys me (personally) intensely. It isn’t interesting at all. Start with something more interesting!

First chapter – this needs to show your style and character to the reader. They need to get a sense of what the story is going to be like and the personality of the MC. Your main plot probably won’t be revealed until the third+ chapter. But hinting the plot or alluding to a sense of mystery can help make the reader interested.

Update

I haven’t posted much in the last couple of weeks, and it will probably be another couple of weeks before I start posting regularly again. The reason? It’s exam season, yay! (obvious sarcasm here) Thankfully I only have one exam, but I have four pieces of coursework due in Monday, and another one due in the Monday after. And I have a really bad cold. Yippee.

In other news, I’ve started another blog. I know, I have a full plate as it is! I will still be posting here obviously, this is my focus. This other blog is in collaboration with four other writers which is quite exciting. More on that coming soon!

2015 is Here

Just a tad late on the new year band wagon! But nevermind. Hope everyone has had a great New Year’s Eve and Day.

I don’t have any resolutions as such this year, but I have some goals I would very much like to achieve.

  • Write the second book in The Last Shadow Trilogy
  • Write the third book in The Last Shadow Trilogy
  • Start submitting my work to agents
  • Pass my first year of uni
  • My Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge goal is to read 50 books this year!

It will be interesting come the end of the year when I look back at this, and I’ll either be thrilled I achieved those things, or I’ll be annoyed at myself for not getting things done.

I hope 2015 is a good year for you all!