Week 11–Uglies

This week’s book was a quick, YA read (I know, I know, two in a row…the next is a book for grown-ups AND a bestseller, so be patient).  I just snatched Uglies by Scott Westerfeld off my shelf on the way to work one day, which is how I ended up reading two YA novels back to back.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0689865384&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrThis is one of those novels that’s received a lot of hype, and seemed to have an extremely interesting premise, so I decided to read it.  One of the things I need to learn is not to pick up a book based on reputation alone. It was a good story, but the writing was not great.  One may offer the excuse of Well yeah, but it’s written for teenagers.  As Jennifer Donnelly proved with Revolution, and John Green proved with Looking for Alaska, a YA novelist doesn’t have to sacrifice elevated language in order to appeal to a youthful audience.

Tally Youngblood lives in a time at least three hundred years from our present day.  Everyone between the age of 12 and 16 is considered an “ugly” simply for being normal and having an unaltered appearance.  On their sixteenth birthday, all kids undergo major reconstructive surgery to make them biologically perfect to other humans–perfectly symmetrical, with the most appealing size and color eyes, lips, and nose, a healthy and steady weight and figure, and a nearly inhuman elegance of movement–the purpose being for everyone to look the same and therefore finally be equal.  Tally meets Shay three months before either of them are to undergo the operation, and Shay speaks of taboo things like being ugly forever. When Shay runs away to a fabled haven for uglies who do not want to turn “pretty”–known as The Smoke–Tally is given the choice by the authorities to either go after Shay as a spy and reveal the location of this secret settlement, or remain ugly forever. As Tally gets to know the Smokies, she learns disturbing truths about what it means to be pretty, and struggles with whether or not to betray her new-found friends.

Like I said, it’s a fascinating premise, and the plot is fast-paced and gripping.  I have to confess that, although I consider myself adept at predicting plot, there were a few events that caught me completely by surprise.  Tally is a quick thinker and quite a bit braver than she believes herself to be.  However, I wish the characters–Tally, Shay, David, etc.–had been more developed and 3-dimensional.  Tally evolved a little bit through the novel, that being one of the purposes of the book, but I could have done with more.

I’d say if you’re really into this sort of thing, read it. Otherwise, pass it up.

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