“Becoming pretty doesn’t just change the way you look,” she said. “No,” David said. “It changes the way you think.”
– Scott Westerfeld, Uglies
I am finally getting to the pointy end of the alphabet and it a struggle to find books to match the remaining letters. ‘U’ is a particularly difficult letter and after many discussions, I decided on Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Uglies is another one of those books that I looked at for a long time before I actually picked it up to read. After all the hype, I have to admit that I wasn’t quite as enamoured with it as I thought I would be. I have only read one other of his books – Afterworlds – and really enjoyed it.
Tally Youngblood is a mischievous Ugly for whom it is nearly time to become Pretty. Her best friend already lives on the other side of town and when Tally is nearly caught sneaking into Pretty Town, she finds herself being watched by Dr Cable and the secret police (Special Circumstances). Her new friend Shay – who is rebellious and free – tells her about the Smoke, a hidden town in the wilderness where it is rumoured there is a group of rebels who haven’t undergone the Pretty operation. Dr Cable gives Tally an ultimatum; follow her new friend Shay to the Smoke and turn them all in or never become Pretty. Even though she knows it is wrong, Tally follows Shay and once she arrives in the Smoke, she becomes more and more comfortable in her new surroundings. The more she gets to know David – a boy her age who grew up away from town – the more she listens to what he has to say. Eventually Special Circumstances find them; David and Tally escape from their clutches and head to the city to rescue those who were captured. It is too late for some and Tally’s guilt leads her to do the very thing she was hoping to avoid – becoming Pretty.
For some reason, I just didn’t connect with this book. We already live in a beauty-obsessed world, driven by media outlets fuelling the idea that becoming taller, thinner, muscled and tanned will fulfil all your needs. A desire to be more attractive is something I am assuming most people consider at some stage in their life. Unsurprisingly, Westerfeld uses the clichéd love story to show Tally that it is what’s on the inside that counts however I just didn’t find his messages as convincing as they could have been. Perhaps his intentions are clearer in the subsequent books but I’m just not sure I will end up finding out!