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Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I’d been wanting to read Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series for awhile and finally found the time too. Despite being published many years before the dystopia craze, the science fiction aspect of the novel combined with Westerfeld’s storytelling makes it a true front runner in the genre.

Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfield

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uglies by scott westerfield

Title & Author: Uglies (The Uglies) by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: YA Fantasy – Science Fiction

Release Date: February 8, 2005

Series: #1 in The Uglies series

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s

How I Got the Book: Bought


“Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait for the operation that turns everyone from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to party. But new friend Shay would rather hoverboard to “the Smoke” and be free. Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The “Special Circumstances” authority Dr Cable offers 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.”

Beauty is as Beauty Does

A common thread in most dystopias is the idea that the government/society a person lives in isn’t as calm/peaceful/wonderful as it’s claiming to be. Uglies doesn’t deviate from it – Tally has been told that when she turns 16, she’ll be turned into a “Pretty,” a genetically altered beauty “template” that all teenagers are changed into.

And, as usual of dystopias, Tally finds some unsavory things about her world that rock it irrevocably.

There are a few things that make Uglies stand out from all of the other the-government-is-lying-to-us stories. 1. Scott Westerfeld is a master at surprises. There were so many times in Uglies that I was genuinely shocked to discover what decisions characters made or how he made the story twist.

2. The story is told in a third-person omniscient style writing, which gives the story the appropriate coldness needed for the harsh reality Tally lives in. There was always a sense of detachment from Tally and the rest of the world. She doesn’t seem to fit in wherever she goes, and the writing reflected that very well.

I’m not saying Tally isn’t strong or warm or brave – she just has a Katniss-like feel to her. She has beliefs that are shaken and dealing with them takes her down a long, hard road.

3. Ideologies of beauty and attractiveness are challenged. Before Tally meets Shay, she accepts the idea that she will be turned “pretty,” a set series of traits that all people accept as being beautiful. Like full lips, wide eyes and exact proportions. When Shay tells Tally that she wants to stay an Ugly and never be made pretty, Tally practically has a heart attack.

Although to become “pretty” in Uglies involves a surgical procedure that changes your body forever, I couldn’t help but see the parallels in our current society – especially the extremes we go to to mold ourselves in the “acceptable” beauty that’s been dictated to us in magazines and movies.

I really appreciated this YA book taking a more serious – although dark – turn and talking about real issues that affect real teens.


If the rest of the series is as awesome as the first book, I will be thrilled. Please read Uglies if you like a dose of science fiction with your YA and if you want to challenge your thinking on societal norms.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.