Uglies (Uglies #1)
Simon & Schuster, 2006 (2005)*
Tally can't wait to turn sixteen and become Pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation 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 has been on my TBR list for a while now. I'd heard a lot of good things about Scott Westerfeld, and about this series in general. The premise intrigued me: at the age of sixteen, citizens are "turned" Pretty, remodelled into almost interchangeably beautiful adults, in a bid to foster equality. The Uglies wait desperately for the day that they too can join this glittering world of glamorous parties and non-stop pleasure.
Tally is no exception. She anxiously waits for the day that she can join her best friend in New Pretty Town. When Tally meets Shay, however, she discovers that another world waits beyond the one she knows: a world where you don't get turned. When Shay runs away, Tally is forced to follow her and discover this world for herself.
Uglies begins immediately with Tally on a "trick", sneaking across the river into New Pretty Town. I liked Tally instantly. I particularly liked how her desire to turn Pretty wasn't glossed over, or played down: she really, really wants to be one of the beautiful people, and she doesn't see anything wrong with that. And even though it might seem like a pretty bizarre ambition, it needed to be there for the rest of the book to have any kind of impact.
The gradual unravelling of everything Tally believes in made the second half of this book the most enjoyable. I also thought the ending was brilliant. It wasn't what I was expecting, and I was incredibly glad that I'd borrowed Pretties, the next book in the series, at the same time, so I could dive right in!
The only thing I had a minor quibble with was the lack of background details. As a reader I gleaned quite a lot from throwaway comments - and don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of the info dump in the slightest - but I was still left wondering about the exact workings of the world Westerfeld created. Perhaps that will come out in the next book, though, so for now I will reserve judgement.
Overall rating: 7/10
*The publisher and year refers to the UK edition of the book. The year in parentheses is the year it was originally published in the US.
**The blurb is taken from the back of the edition of the book I read.
Book source: Borrowed from the public library.