Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld - #1 for YA Dystopian Challenge

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Copyright 2005
Simon Pulse - YA/Dystopian
425 pages

I bought Uglies last weekend when I was all reading-slumpy after finding out a friend's son was killed in Afghanistan. After a couple of days of bawling and finding it impossible to concentrate, Uglies saved the day. It's light; it's dystopian (a worse world than ours is always helpful when you're feeling bad about your own). It was perfect for the moment.

****Warning* - This review may contain spoilers. I hope not, but you never know and I'm too polite not to warn you. ****

Tally lives in a world that is divided by looks and age. Children, or "littlies" spend the first years of their life at home, with their Pretty, surgically-enhanced parents. At the age of 12, youngsters leave their parents and attend boarding schools in Uglytown (or, maybe it's Ugly Town -- I can't be bothered to look, at the moment . . . too tired) till they reach the magical age of 16. At 16, they graduate and are taken for the surgery that will make them physically perfect, then they can live in New Pretty Town.

Pretties are privileged. Uglies spend their time looking forward to becoming Pretties, calling each other ugly nicknames, playing tricks on each other and finding ways to sneak out of the dorms. Special Pretties patrol on hovercars to keep the Uglies in their place; bridges and hoverboards tattle on those who try to break the rules and leave the zones in which they belong; interface rings track people.

Tally just wants to hurry up and become a Pretty. Since her childhood best friend, Peris, has already been 16 for several months, Tally is lonely and eagerly awaits the day she can rejoin Peris. She misses him so much that she decides to sneak across the river to New Pretty Town for a visit. But, the Pretties spot her and she has to make some quick and clever maneuvers to get away. In the process, she meets another daring Ugly, Shay.

Shay and Tally find out they have the same birthday, immediately become friends and begin sneaking out and playing tricks together. Shay teaches Tally how to use a hoverboard and how to trick it so that she can't be tracked. She takes Tally further into the ruined city where the Rusties used to live before disaster struck, guides her on longer trips to a place where nature rules and, eventually, reveals her secret: Shay has no interest in becoming a Pretty. Instead, she wants to escape to a place called the Smoke, where a group of people who don't want to go through the surgery hide out and live in the old-fashioned way.

When Shay disappeares close to their birthday, she leaves a cryptic note behind -- just in case Tally wants to join her. Tally misses her new friend. But, she still just wants to be a Pretty and chooses to go through with her operation so she can move on with her life. And, that's when things get complicated. Instead of being taken in for her surgery, Tally is escorted to Special Circumstances, where she's given an ultimatum: Find Shay and the rest of the Uglies who have escaped to the Smoke or remain an Ugly, forever.

****Okay, I think it's safe, now.****

Good golly, Miss Molly. I had no idea what a fun, fascinating dystopian tale I was voluntarily missing out on by letting a title sway me. I'm so glad I bought Uglies!! It's entertaining, thought-provoking, and I want to buy the next book immediately. It's more than just an enjoyable tale; it's a social commentary that hits on some thoughts I've had, myself. My ugly face and I have thought about such things. Anyway, I want Pretties, now!!!! Only, that's not going to happen, at least until Saturday. Thank goodness for Borders and their hoopty fine weekly coupons. Please, please, please have a copy of Pretties, O people at the Flowood Borders!!!!

There were times I thought Mr. Westerfeld screwed up a little on his world-building, but then he managed to explain whatever I thought was missing and I had to give myself a lecture. I really enjoyed this book. It's a 5/5, for me.

This is my first book read for the YA Dystopian Challenge.

In other news:

Carpet! We have carpet!!! I'm so excited!!! And, now I can really see just how dinky my den is, but that's okay. It's soft! It's not bare concrete!!! I can do aerobics, again . . . or will be able to when we move the TV into that room. I have sooo missed my den. Two years we went without a den -- so long that we gave away our couch so we'd have a place to walk. That's a long time to go without a den in a fairly small house with no basement, let me tell ya.

Books, books, books!!! - Way too many have arrived in the past week. I got a lecture from my teenager about the influx, actually. One time, he even ran away with a parcel in his hands and wouldn't let me see what UPS had brought me! But, then he gave it back. Big meanie. Among other things, my copy of The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton has finally arrived, which made me say something to the effect of, "Squeeee!" I also received a copy of A Novel Idea - a book about writing Inspirational Fiction, for review. Very timely with NaNoWriMo coming soon.

From Paperback Swap, I received The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough (SuziQ's fault), Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (Andi gets the blame), Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails, 1850 (Sharon is guilty) and Handling Sin by Michael Malone (blame my book buddy Bob).

ARCs of Spellbinder by Helen Stringer and Cherries in Winter by Suzan Colon have recently arrived.

From Audra, the Magnificent Publicist of B & B Media, I have recently received No Idea by Greg Garrett -- not sure I mentioned that, last week, but I'm reading it. She also sent The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason, The God Sightings Bible and its Companion Guide (reading it, too -- it's a chronological Bible, so I can read it and also use my new Mosaic Bible, which means I have a super cool life) and I have a copy of The Church of Facebook on its way. Now, you know why I adore Audra.

From Hatchette, I got Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby and A Climate for Change by Hayhoe and Farley (reading - loving).

Sterling Kids sent me two beautiful illustrated classics: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by Robert Ingpen and The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Charles Santore. Even my husband gasped at their beauty. And, he's really not interested in anything but business, history and How People Seriously Screwed Up and Everyone Died books (you know, Charge of the Light Brigade type mistakes).

The only question I have is "When the heck am I going to find the time to read all of them?" I shall do my darndest.

I have a guest post scheduled for tomorrow, but haven't heard from the guest as of tonight. If he doesn't show up, next up will be my review of The Maze Runner, which was so totally awesome that I had to let it roll around in my head for a while. You know how that goes.

I have to go to bed, now, so I'm sending out happy, smiley fairy dust, wishes for health and excellent reading material, and a request for someone to bring a wheelbarrow to take away some of my older books. Nighty-night bookish ones!

Bookfool. Yeah. Still buried. Not looking hopeful that we'll dig out anytime soon.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's son.

    Thank you for this review. I do love YA novels and this one sounds like a goodie.

  2. Uglies sounds real good. I have the e book and I surely will read it next :) it fits the RIP challenge :)

    And wow...... That's so MANY BOOKS.. no wonder the Teen had to give you a lecture :)

  3. I'm actually going to have to come back to read your review later. I'm afraid after reading your first paragraph, I just couldn't go on. Oh Nancy, I am so sorry! My heart is breaking for you, and of course, for your friend. You are the second blogging friend in the last couple weeks to have been devastated by the death of a heroic loved one in Afghanistan. I know there is nothing I can say, but know that you're in my thoughts. *hugs*

  4. You should probably go ahead and buy Specials while you're at it. My husband loved the whole trilogy.

  5. Rosemary,

    Thank you.

    I'm fast becoming a YA freak, myself. They tend to tackle serious issues but they're comfortably brain-light. Uglies turned out to be a surprising new favorite. I do hope you read it!


    I'm not sure I realized dystopian novels fit the RIP. I probably did but it's early. LOL Hope you read it soon; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

    Yes, it's an embarrassing number of books. In my defense, I can't predict when PBS books will become available and two of the books were unsolicited. I'm afraid those aren't very good excuses, though!


    Thank you. I would appreciate it if you'd keep Brandon's mother, twin sister, and the rest of his family in your thoughts and prayers. His death is sad and horrifying for me and the members of my group, but obviously nothing compared to what his family is going through.

    You can read the review any old time. It's not going anywhere. :)

  6. Kathy,

    I've thought about that. Once I read Pretties, I'll probably want to march right into Specials. Thanks for telling me your husband enjoyed them all!

  7. I have this in my stack for the readathon this weekend and am glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!! I've read the first little bit and it does sound intriguing! I can't wait to get to it.

    And I can't wait to read your review of The Maze Runner!!

  8. Heather,

    It's a good one for the readathon, IMHO, since it's fairly light reading (even though the meaning goes pretty deep).

    You'll have to wait a couple of hours. I can't see straight, today. Three days of getting up early to see the kid off are about two too many. I want my husband to come home, NOW! But, since he won't be back from Germany for a couple of days, I'm going to nap.

  9. I've been wavering back and forth on this one for several months now. Even picked it up at the libary once and put it back on the shelf. I think you've tipped me over the edge into the 'definitely want to read it' territory.

    I may wait, though - I'm trying to defer library books as much as I can until after the Clear Your Shelves challenge is over at the end of November.

  10. Wow! This books sounds really interesting. I will look for it.

    I attended a going-away party last night for my neighbor's son who is deploying to Afghanistan. All of our servicepeople overseas are always in my prayers. I'm so sorry for your friend's loss.

    Life by Candlelight

  11. Amy,

    I thought it was really fun reading.

    You might know my friend from your time in AN2R - it's Jill from Pennsylvania. Her son Brandon (she had twins) was killed by a roadside bomb.

  12. I am glad you enjoyed this book! I really liked the series. :)

  13. Kelly,

    I was so surprised. I'm really enthusiastic about reading the entire series. Kathy may be right -- I should probably just go ahead and buy Pretties and Specials at the same time!

  14. Why haven't I read this yet? I downloaded the e-book when it was made available a while ago, so I have no excuse, really. Anyway, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!

    Briar Rose is such a good book. I hope you love it too!

  15. Nymeth,

    I don't know. Why haven't you read it? You really should. :)

    I'm definitely looking forward to Briar Rose!

  16. Ah yes...the daily mail pickup and wondering what will be in the box...ever get a little bit saddened when there isn't one? I'm so happy for that you have your den back....and about all the books you received. Also glad you liked the series! Book two is really good as well...book three made it most of the way through and then it walked off somewhere (I'll find it again...).

    Happy reading!

  17. My daughter read this series and loved it. It caused her a great deal of angst. It was fun to listen to her tell me about it.

    Yipee for the carpet! I understand about having your home tore up. We are making such slow progress on ours. We have our family room back but then our 20 YO moved it so we let her have it since the bedroom downstairs was still unfinished. I bet she wishes we get the bathroom downstairs finished, but who knows when that will happen!

  18. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend's son. I think somebody posted about him a few days ago, and I read the article. So very sad.

    I think I have 3 books of this series and still haven't picked up the first one. I don't think I've heard a negative word about it. Good to know you feel the same way. :)

  19. Hey I thought I was to blame for Briar Rose? :-)


  20. GMR,

    I do get sad when nothing arrives, but it's a bit like going on shopping sprees in that there's this momentary thrill and then . . . well, when I look at the piles as I add a new book, the thrill kind of evaporates a bit. So far, this has been an empty-mailbox week. I'm getting used to it.

    I'm glad I'm not the only person who has books walk off in the middle of a reading! I just found The Calling, last week. It was missing for nearly a month.


    I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I can see where the angst comes from, though.

    We've got a really small house -- ranch style, with a living/dining and a tiny den . . . no upstairs, no basement -- so there's just no place to put things when we redo a room. It's horrible. We're partly doing the fix-up so that the house will be in good shape to sell. We're ready to move on. Originally, we planned to stay in this house no more than 5 years. We've been here 18 years. In a house we don't even like! Good luck with your renovations!


    You probably did read about him somewhere; Brandon's mother is a book lover and involved in quite a few groups. My little group was in total shock.

    It's funny that I avoided this series for so long and then ended up enjoying the first book so much. Someone -- can't say who -- recommended skipping the 4th in the series because it doens't add much, so I might just read the 3.


    I read Andi's review first, but you definitely share in the blame!!

  21. "Good golly, Miss Molly. I had no idea what a fun, fascinating dystopian tale I was voluntarily missing out on by letting a title sway me." I'll admit that I am solely biased against these books because of the titles alone. Pretties? Uglies? YUCK. I had to deal with that crud in high school, why would I want to relive it in a book? Ok--you've got me thinking a little harder about trying it out.

  22. Trish,

    That's exactly what I thought when I saw the covers and titles -- oh, no, I do not want to read about teenagers divided by looks. I never even bothered to pick one up to look at it and probably wouldn't have if I didn't happen across a couple of great blog reviews. Uglies is really a social commentary on how we base too much importance on looks and on what could happen if we keep going down this path of physical enhancement and division based on appearance. They're futuristic books, so I'm not sure the series would be your thing, but at least you know the books aren't what they look like, right? :)

  23. I love you too Bookfool!


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