I’ve just finished listening to Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (and narrated by Carine Montbertrand). Once again it’s a dystopian series that in the end has hooked me. I’ve been working my way through this 12 hour story for months, mainly because after part 1 (the audio book was downloaded in two chunks) I didn’t have much enthusiasm to continue, so I didn’t listen to it for several weeks. However in the spirit of hating leaving things unfinished I decided to plow through it today while working on a web project and boy did the second half pick up. If you stop reading this post now just let me say check this series out, it’s interesting.
The book begins with a girl, Tally Youngblood, who is a few months away from her sixteenth birthday. However unlike in our current day where that really only means you can drive a car on your own(and in some states not even that) in this world you get mandatory cosmetic surgery to make you gorgeous. When we enter the book Tally has snuck out of Uglyville into New Pretty Town to try and find her best bud Peris. He has been in Tally’s life ever since she was a little kid but his birthday was before hers so now she is abandoned. After a somewhat embarrassing run-in with Peris she returns home and meets another girl named Shay. Like Tally she is the last of her friends to turn 16, unlike Tally, Shay doesn’t want the surgery. The girls form a tight bond over the summer (their birthdays are at the end of the summer) and like all friends get in mischief and fights. A week before their birthdays (after not speaking for awhile because of a blow out over the surgery situation) Shay tells Tally that she is running away to go live in the Smoke with her other friends. It turns out Shay was left behind because she chickened out (not just because she was younger than the other girls and didn’t have surgery when they did). So Shay leaves and leaves Tally a coded message on how to follow her. When the day comes for Tally’s surgery it’s delayed and she is brought to Special Circumstances where Dr. Cable inform her that unless Tally helps the Specials find the Smoke she’ll never get her surgery. Tally eventually agrees (after a visit from Peris) and has to beat feet to make up time so the Smokies are curious as to why she hadn’t shown up sooner. She makes it in about four days (but has to lie saying it took her nine).
Shay is over the moon Tally has joined her even though Tally is feeling rotten about having a tracker (a heart-shaped pendant) with her. She is interrupted from activating it right away and is brought off to help harvest scrap metal. Randomly David (a guy that Shay had referred to lots of time but had never actually introduced to Tally despite her best efforts) decides to share big secrets about his family to Tally her first day in the Smoke (Of course). During the conversation Tally finds herself wanting to be trustworthy and so the seeds of doubt on what to do are sewn. Days / weeks pass as Tally tries to throw off suspicion of her being a spy. She unintentionally grows closer to David and he eventually gives her a pair of gloves. This is a big deal in the Smoke since everything is either traded/reused/recycled never thrown out or thoughtlessly given to another. This sparks a fight between Shay and Tally. Shay sees at once that David is in love with Tally not her. (Shay of course, figured David was hers). Shay is upset because Tally is openly walking around with a heart pendant, who Shay believes was given to Tally by a boy back in Uglyville. In truth it is the tracker that Dr. Cable gave Tally. Anyway Shay thinks that Tally is leading David on and Tally promises to tell David the truth. That night he takes her to meet his parents, who were once Pretty doctors (doctors in charge of the physical part of the surgery. They discovered that during the surgery the doctors also altered the brains of kids so they are more complacent (or something that would take to long to explain.). Tally is freaked but copes well and David takes her back to camp. On the way back they share a moment and he touches her pendant during it. This spurs Tally to throw it into the fire. For her this is her finally choosing the Smoke over ever going back to the city to get her once all consuming surgery. Little does she know that the action is the butterfly’s wing that starts a hurricane.
The next morning she wakes up to see the place getting invaded by Specials. She eventually escapes and finds David (the only other Smokey to escape). Seeing that it’s all her fault she vows to take David to the city to rescue everyone. It takes a few weeks and when they get everyone out they discover Shay has been turned and that David’s father is dead. They get everyone out to a ruined city where they set up base. There David’s mom works on a cure for the brain spots. She comes up with a testable cure but wont force anyone to take it. The only Pretty on hand is Shay. Guilt eats away at Tally so she agrees to go be made Pretty and then they can rescue her and test the cure. David wont here of it but his mother is all for it. His mother knows the truth about Tally and allows her to finally tell David the truth. He runs out and his mom convinces her to surrender herself that night after writing a letter to her future Pretty-self explaining that the doctor has written permission from her past/present self to do the testing. The book ends with Shay and Tally turning themselves in (although Shay shouldn’t be in trouble Tally is in for it).
*End Spoiler Section*
Like I said, the last third of the book really picked up, daring escape plans and intrigue as to what really goes down when the Uglies are under the knife just reach out and grab you. I’m just trying to figure out if I want to read the second book or listen to it. During some of the lulling sections I noticed just how much space the narrator puts between each of her sentences. It sometimes seemed like an necessary amount of pausing (I think the story could have been an hour shorter easily). However one thing is certain, I will be continuing the series, at least into book two, Pretties. If it lulls a bunch like this one did we’ll see if I go to book three and four but the content is quite trippy. Thinking about the premise of where/how these people live is crazy, However, in a warped way I can see how society could end up like that, and that is a bit creepy/crazy. Tally often is defending the surgery (until she finds out about the non-physical changes) pointing out if everyone looks beautiful and the same then no one can hate someone else for being different. Hate leads to wars and on and on the argument goes. So yes, overall an interesting book and despite me saying it lulled out it picked up enough for me to give book two a chance, so that should speak for itself. Go ahead and check it out.
Until next time ~ Q