I’ve read a lot of dystopian YA fiction this year, and whilst I do enjoy it and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite genres, no matter how different the plot and characters, they always end up the same – there is inevitably a love triangle and the main character eventually rebels against the controlling system which they come to realise is not as perfect as it is made out to be and manage to convince the entire nation of this – The Huger Games and Delirium instantly spring to mind…except they were much much more well done than Uglies. Now I understand that Uglies was the first to come out circa 2005, and it has a wonderful premise, but it fell severely flat for me.
Tally Youngblood is mere weeks off her sixteenth birthday, the birthday when everything will change – she will become a Pretty by means of a simple operation, move out of Uglyville and join her Pretty family and friends in a carefree fun lifestyle. She can’t wait, until she meets Shay - Shay doesn’t share Tally’s views, and plans on running away to a mysterious place far out of town called ‘the Smoke’; she can’t change Tally’s mind, however, and ends up running off alone. Tally doesn’t bother too much, instead focusing on her excitement of becoming a Pretty…but she doesn’t get the chance and is faced with a horrific decision – give up Shay, or be forever Ugly.
Now Uglies could have been amazing, it really could have been, but I feel it was let down by Westerfeld’s writing. It’s not awful, but he’s certainly more of a storyteller than a writer, much like J.K. Rowling, which isn’t bad thing…except the premise was the best thing about this book. The pacing is really slow (until dramatic things happen in about two pages), the characters boring and very undeveloped, many events were very convenient (such as easily deciphering the note that even Special Circumstances, the future version of the FBI or there abouts, couldn’t), the government didn’t seem like that much of a threat and pretty much everything was annoyingly spelt out. Also, I got sick of Westerfeld (intentionally or not) criticising everything we ‘Rusties’ do – we’re ugly, use too much metal in buildings, severely destroyed the planet even though it survived perfectly fine and *gasp* kill trees!
There were a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect, but the majority of it was predictable and due to the frequent ‘convenientness’ you knew no matter what that Tally would not get in trouble or hurt. I think a map would have been a nice idea, so you could trace Tally’s adventures and get a sense of perspective. I love the cover – it’s very simplistic but a pretty powerful image, and I really prefer it to the updated covers featuring models, although it is a bit amusing that Westfeld’s name is misspelt.
I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series as I don’t particularly care what happens next. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting dystopian novel, but don’t go into it expecting a masterpiece.
[SYNOPSIS: 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.]