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Uglies (2005)

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3.86 of 5 Votes: 5
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0689865384 (ISBN13: 9780689865381)
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Uglies (2005) - Plot & Excerpts

I need to never run into Scott Westerfeld down a dark alley, or during a Civil War reenactment, or at Charlton Heston's house, or wherever. My deep desire not to be arrested for murder would have an epic battle with my need to reach for a weapon when I see his stupid face. In all fairness, as you see, I coughed up three stars for this book, so I will clarify that my empty threatening is really directed toward Pretties and Specials (books two and three in this series). I'm posting this review on the link for the first book in the hopes that it will inspire people to put this book on their list of books never to read. If you read this book there is the danger that you may want to continue with the series, but trust me, you really don't.In listing what I don't like about this series, I'll start with EVERYTHING from the characters to the plot to the worldview that I imagine would inspire a story of this kind of depth and breadth of ambivalence. The premise of Uglies is that in the future when kids reach puberty, they all have mandatory plastic surgery to turn their bodies into a perfect standard of beauty based on human brain reactions to visual stimulus. Unfortunately (and this is a slight spoiler, so my apologies, but it really is an element that is pretty obvious from page one, though not clearly stated until later), when the kids are having the surgeries to make them pretty, the surgeons change their brains, too, to determine their decision-making abilities, capacity for independent thought, and even sense response. Basically, the pretty surgery makes most people stupid, unless the occupation that the government determines for them requires intelligence. So far so good - it's your basic government-takeover dystopia. Yes, kids, if you let the government give you free health care checkups, it's only a small step to the day they start chopping up your brain.Luckily, said ugly teens (particularly our protagonist, Tally, through her bff, Shay) discover that if they flee to the wilderness, they will be able to live a life of freedom and romance. Oh, what's that? Did I say "romance"? Thanks again Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, et al. Sometimes when characters go out into the wilderness . . . I don't even know. Does the phrase "it's been done" even begin to cover my feelings on that topic? Thus begins the cat-fight between Tally and Shay that is the uniting thread of this entire series. You see, there is a wilderness boy (imagine my surprise), who is quite a catch even though he's "ugly", and there's some jealousy and betrayal and kick-ass hoverboarding. You get the idea.Let me clarify the problems I have listed so far:1. Suspicion of the city, using a retreat to the wild as the solution to social ills. It's a tired premise.2. Cattiness of the female protagonist and portraying the central female character as mostly driven by her current crush and competition with other women. That is a huge pet peeve of mine.Those, however, are small, forgivable wrongs compared to the basic disingenuousness of the moral arguments Westerfeld makes. While he on one level criticizes the idea of basing society on a hierarchy of physical looks, the characters repeatedly interact within that hierarchy, calling each other "pretty" and "ugly" at every turn and defining "pretty" people very specifically. Even the repetition of the words "ugly" and "pretty" undercuts any message Westerfeld might have against pigeonholing people. I found myself seeing people in the grocery store and evaluating whether they met the "evolutionary definition" of pretty as according to this series. It's creepy and annoying. Westerfeld can be as showy as he wants about how it is limiting to judge people based on their appearance, but I argue that he is actually encouraging that same shallow judgment if only by instruction and repetition. For example, it's like saying, "kids, don't shoplift, but here's how to shoplift if you ever want to do it. And here's a catchy shoplifting song to sing with your group of friends, who really should have a name. Hey, we could call you guys the 'shoplifting gang'! Don't shoplift, though." What's the real message there? Ultimately, the arguments of the government that requires the pretty surgeries, also, make a lot of sense in the stories. The surgeries solve anorexia, bring world peace, and save the environment. Plastic surgery sounds fun, too, and Westerfeld literally makes no compelling arguments against body alteration. At the same time, I'm left feeling that Westerfeld thinks it is a bad idea, though he is not convincing.If Westerfeld's discussion of body image wasn't enough of a travesty, the point in this series where this backwards arguing makes me want to wipe him off the face of the planet is when he introduces cutting. By "cutting" I'm not talking about skipping school. If you are not familiar with cutting, it is a form of self-mutilation that has been growing in popularity with teenagers over the past few years (I'm going to go ahead and say it's been growing in popularity since 2006, when the book Specials was published). In Specials, our catty female protagonist and her buddies discover that by slicing up their arms, they experience a particularly satisfying high, and all of their senses are strengthened. Ultimately, they randomly decide that this is a bad idea, but Westerfeld only implies their reasoning for that decision, and again I'm left with the feeling that probably everyone should be a cutter because in the context of the story it's pretty badass. I think that was the point where I started yelling and throwing things around my house.Unfortunately, some parts of these stories are actually engaging (not seriously engaging, but passably), and for a while I wanted to find out what happened to everyone, even while I wanted to burn the author's house down. The truly unforgivable wrongs are his wolf-in-sheep's-clothing discussions of teen body image and self-mutilation issues. His characters never develop deep self-respect or intelligent motivation for their actions, and even when their decisions seem healthy, Westerfeld makes a better argument for the unhealthy decisions. Now I realize that I didn't even talk about the uber-annoying slang language he develops for the Pretties and Specials. I'll just say that these books are not "bubbly" and leave it at that.

EDIT : One thing I forgot. I'm even more angered at this book when I think about the trees that gave their lives for this so-called piece of literature. May they rest in peace.Nope, couldn’t finish it. Sigh. I thought I was going to like this one. It started off fine and all. And then everything fell apart. Yes, that dramatic.Am I the only one who was deeply offended by this piece of crap ? This book is wrong, wrong, wrong.The writing itself isn’t particularly… well, isn’t anything really. But this is supposed to be a book about beauty with a big B and the writing doesn’t do justice to the theme. I’d even call it Ugly. The characters are stereotyped. Tally is a brainwashed moron. Okay, she was raised to believe the ideology of her country but she cannot think by herself. She wonders whether to betray the Smoke, the rebellious uglies, and you know what helps her make the right decision? A boy. Woohoo, thank God he was there, with his adorable crooked smile, his sweet kisses, and his handmade leather shoes, otherwise I really would have thought that she was an immoral bitch. This also means that the fate of an entire city depends of the hormonal state of our young hero. DUDE!The boy himself is… phew, of course he thinks Tally is beautiful, special, strong, smart, unlike anyone else when she is, in fact, so flat that I could surf on her back. In fact, she’s “the only one who truly understands”. Pleaaaaaase. He was raised to be a very careful, and independent thinker, but he falls for the first pair of boobs he encounters and turns out to be a spy. Good job.Shay was the best character until Westerfeld reduced her to some kind of stupid Lolita. She, who expressed interesting and deep (as much deep as this book can be) thoughts became a giggling, naïve, brainless chick whose only interest is, of course, the boy with the handmade leather shoes.Anyway, let’s move on to the real problem. The content has almost nothing to do with the premise. The book is full of ecologist propaganda. Westerfeld keeps telling us how bad, bad, BAD things we, humans, are. He calls our generation the Rusties. Isn’t that nice? He criticizes everything we do. Oh, wait, no, he praises the invention of the Roller Coaster! We’re bad because we use metal, we’re bad because we’re savages who eat animals and because we “killed every living thing”. Well apparently not, because there are a lot of forests and flowers despite our destructive frenzy.I was going to quote some passages but the words are so offensive I just can’t. We’re freaks, we’re ugly, and we’re wrong. This must not be the message intended but it’s all I got from this book. It’s like Westerfeld wants us to go back to some primitive way of life. He doesn’t criticize our mistakes, he condemns progress. He’s not warning us, he’s trying to shove his dogma down our throats. He’s telling us “I’m right, you should believe me, because I detain the truth.” I deeply love nature and also fear for its future, but I want to believe that mankind has an equal capacity for creation and destruction, for beauty and ugliness, for right and wrong. It’s depressing to read about how hopeless we are. Westerfeld lacks delicacy, neutrality. He’s not objective.“Nature, at least, didn’t need an operation to be beautiful. It just was.” How about us? Aren’t we part of nature? Aren’t we beautiful, then, the way we are? For Westerfeld, this is Nature versus Mankind. He takes us apart from it, he draws a line between the Earth and our species. I believe that everything that lives on Earth is connected, that we’re a part of a whole. If you really want to write about nature and man, you shouldn’t make them opposite. Instead, look for what makes us part of the earth, what connects us to the rest of the world, the plants, the animals. We are a part of this planet, we are nature and culture. I believe that it is where lies the true beauty of our condition. I want to believe that some of us can see that, that we will realize how important nature is, not because it just feeds us or that flowers are pretty, but because we are one with it.The plot itself is weak. I don’t understand what the real issue of the book is. The government doesn’t look threatening. I didn’t feel the pressure I felt in The Hunger Games, for example. I I don’t understand what the Smokies are doing, what is their purpose, I have no empathy for them or any of the characters. Everything is very confusing. Westerfeld wants to talk about free thinking, nature, man, beauty, but he doesn’t do it well.Also, I may not be an expert about economics but it seems to me that without a financial system, a country cannot work. In the Pretties society, no one pays for anything, and Tally is shocked when she learns that at the Smoke, people have to give to receive. So, yeah, it made me frown.

What do You think about Uglies (2005)?

Tally and Peris have been best friends since before Tally can remember. Now that Peris is sixteen, Tally won’t see him again for another couple of months. In Tally’s world when you turn sixteen you get to be made pretty.Tally lives in Uglyville and everyone that lives there is ugly. It isn’t until your sixteen birthday that you undergo the operation that will turn you into a Pretty. Tally can’t wait to be turned pretty for her thin lips to be lusciously full and her eyes to be beautifully spaced. Everyone gets to be pretty that way everyone has an equal chance.Just before she is to have her operation Tally meets Shay who happens to share a birthday with Tally. But Shay isn’t like Tally. She doesn’t think that being ugly is all that bad. Ultimately Shay decides to run away from Uglyville before her operation and join a possibly mythical city where everyone is ugly. But Shay can’t convince Tally to join her, but finds away to show Tally the way if she would ever change her mind.When Tally leaves for her operation something goes terribly wrong. They know that Shay has run away to the city of uglies called the Smoke. And they won’t make Tally pretty unless she finds Shay and eventually lead them to the Smoke.But once Tally finds the Smoke and lives amongst its people, will she want to betray them? Then she unexpectedly finds out a secret that they are keeping from the Pretties.Scott Westerfeld’s first installment of the Uglies trilogy proves to be a captivating experience that will leave you wanting more even after you read the last page. I’ve read other books by Westerfeld and I have to say this is defiantly my favorite. It is a futuristic sci-fi, but could totally be nonfiction in the distant future! The book was clearly thought provoking, yet entertaining. I will be reading Pretties very soon!

I’ve only seen one episode of The Twilight Zone. In this episode, a woman undergoes a battery of surgeries to look normal. At the end of the episode, viewers learn that this latest surgery has failed: the woman is still hideous. Except that to the audience she is beautiful. Online research led me to another episode where teenagers are surgically altered to live longer and conform to a unified standard of beauty (based on a limited number of acceptable “models”). “Uglies,” Scott Westerfeld’s dystopic novel, plays similar games of perception.The novel starts with Tally Youngblood a fifteen-year-old girl desperately waiting for her sixteenth birthday when she will be reunited with her best friend and, more importantly, when she will finally be pretty.“Uglies” is set in the distant future after a mysterious global catastrophe precipitated changes to the foundations of what readers would call modern society. Fearful of war and violence cities now operate as independent states (think Renaissance Italy as opposed to contemporary Italy). Isolated and self-sufficient, the cities have agreed to certain standards for the greater good.New technology ensures that citizens never want for food or luxury items, weapons of any kind are largely illegal, and at the age of sixteen everyone undergoes a series of extreme surgeries to better conform to societal standards of beauty. The logic being that, since humans are preconditioned to respond to certain visual cues in each other already (big eyes are non-threatening, a clear complexion and good teeth indicate that a person is healthy), applying these beauty standards will reduce conflict and create a more harmonious society.But in a world where everyone is movie-star-gorgeous (oldies like Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo are considered “natural pretties”), normal people are so not pretty. In short, they’re ugly.Things change for Tally when she meets Shay, another Ugly girl, who wants to run away before the operation to a place called The Smoke where people can live like “Rusties” (that would be us basically) in the wilderness without any surgery. As the novel progresses, and Special Circumstances (a government agency) coerces Tally into finding The Smoke for them, Tally is forced to choose what means more: friendship or beauty?As the plot might suggest, this is a science fiction novel. Just to be clear, the real difference between sci-fi and fantasy is that the technology in science fiction novels could conceivably work if someone ever built it (dragons, most likely, are never going to be genetically engineered so they’re a good indicator of a fantasy novel). At times this leads to more explanation of, say, hoverboard mechanics in the novel than is strictly necessary to the plot but the rest of the book makes up for this small shortcoming.What makes "Uglies" great, besides how it looks at cultural values, is Westerfeld’s use of language. The novel is not pretentious or brash. Instead, Westerfeld creates a narrative voice that is really unique—especially for a sweeping sci-fi saga like the Uglies trilogy. The novel opens with Tally observing that “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.” That is not, it is fair to say, a typical opening for any novel. Yet Westerfeld moves from that observation seamlessly into the story.This book is the first in the Uglies trilogy (followed by “Pretties” and “Specials”) which focuses on Tally and her city. The scope of each book can largely stand alone, but to get the full story it’s best to read the entire trilogy. Additionally, Westerfeld released a companion book to the trilogy last year called “Extras” which is set a few years after the trilogy with different main characters.“Uglies” is simultaneously funny and frightening, showing how overvalued beauty can be while illustrating how Tally’s world has been conditioned to believe there’s no other way to live. The sections where Westerfeld describes the Rusty Ruins and the end of that era are particularly haunting (and eerily reminiscent of the History Channel’s recent documentary “Life After People”).Sci-fi book discussions often bring up a writer’s “world building” in reference to how well a writer creates their alternate universe. Westerfeld’s world is built really well. The cities have their own culture, the characters their own slang, but Westerfeld manages to bring in enough references to our own contemporary culture that it’s easy for readers to believe Tally’s world is built on the ruins of our own.

Uglies is the high school english teacher's answer to prayer when they try and assign 1984 to their tenth-graders and get all those complaints from parents about the "crap" their kids have to read in school.It's 1984 or Brave New World without all the really offensive stuff.Consequently, it's a little bit watered down, message-wise. But it's also fantastically detailed. Scott Westerfeld definitely thought this one out, what with the hoverboards (not quite like Back to the Future), space food, and interface rings.Okay... plot:Tally Youngblood is ugly. But that's normal for her age, and she won't be for long, because in just a couple of months she'll be sixteen. In just a couple of months, she'll turn pretty, move out of Uglyville, and party all the time.But while she's waiting to turn, she meets Shay, an ugly who shares her birthday and isn't so sure she wants to be pretty. When Shay runs away from Uglyville to a mysterious place called The Smoke, it's up to Tally to find her. She has to. Because if she doesn't, they say she can't turn pretty...Ends abruptly, but that's because there's a second, and a third, and even a fourth.Great prose, imaginative idea, blessedly clean for a teen book (I swear they're all about sex and vampires), not terribly funny, but then again, we can't all be Terry Pratchett.

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