Uglies, Pretties and Specials
Recently finished the third book in the Uglies Trilogy – a young adult miniseries written by Scott Westerfield based around a future society where everyone gets “surge” (plastic surgery) and becomes “pretty” when they reach puberty. The Pretties are changed mentally as well as physically, so their personalities can match their new bodies.
At first I was a little hesitant about reading this series. I’ve never been one for ooh-ing and aah-ing over technology, but I can always get on board with a Utopian society run amok. Westerfield promised a perfect society wherein choice is limited, and inevitably our heroine will bring freedom to it’s people. And the series delivered effortlessly on this count.
In fact – it was reminiscent of The Giver, but not in a derivative way. Honestly any story about a Utopian society geared towards Young Adults is bound to be held up against The Giver. It’s up to the author then to give the content some fresh spin that will keep the comparison brief.
Westerfield works into this familiar tale a lot of great fresh material, and I found it to be relevant for the current events and attitudes of our present society. With the focus on beauty, puberty, relationships, friendships, technology etc – there is more than enough intrigue to keep most teenage girls (and maybe even boys) occupied.
Westerfield’s unique voice in this genre is centered around the idea of beauty, individuality and personal freedom. There were several genres this series was operating in – action adventure, sci-fi, romance, political and societal commentary. And it worked on most levels – at times the romance seemed distracting, as well as the nearly relentless “action.”
One particularly effective element of the series is the use of language and dialogue – especially between the teenage protagonists. Teenagers so often have their own language, slangs and sayings, I felt this was done particularly well. It makes sense that people of the future would have their own way of saying “cool” – and that’s something I look for in any book that is based in the future. You know, what are the small quirks of societies? It might seem insignificant, but it adds up.
I appreciated the perspective of the female protagonist – her curiousity, bravery and physical/emotional stamina were never brought into question. We were never asked to ponder her sexual preference or how/why she would possess these abilities.
It was refreshing to read an author who has great confidence in his female lead. I find in many Young Adult novels, the female characters are often comparable to their male counterparts in all aspects. It’s one of the more appealing aspects of this genre.
I would suggest this series for Young Adults (of course) and also for older folks who are intrigued by fast paced action adventure Utopian societies laced with political commentary and societal implications.
Sure, there is gooey teen romance, a heavy emphasis on technology, and the vocabulary is not on par with modern adult literature. But it’s easily comparable to a graphic novel, with just enough action and content to move the story along and *gasp* make you think at the same time.
The ambiguity of the ending – of the changes Tally eventually brings about in the society leave enough room for the reader to consider their own viewpoints about the idea of freedom vs. society vs. environment.
A great series, for all ages. And, it continues the trend of seemingly every book, comic book or graphic novel I read lately being optioned or possibly turned into a movie. Congrats to Mr. Westerfield, and I am looking forward to the film if/when it occurs. 🙂
Much Love, Mindy C