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.

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