I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
3.5 stars on Booklikes. This will round down to three stars on Goodreads.
I was on the fence as to whether to read this book/series. I think my reasoning went something like this: "Everyone gets plastic surgery at age 16, to make them 'pretty'? That more implausible than most of the implausible scenarios in YA dystopians. I think I'll pass!"
But this is the January 2020 selection for the Forever YA Book Club I belong to, so I decided to give it a try. And It's intrigued me enough that I'm a bit over 1/4 of the way through the second book (Pretties) and planning to tear through the next two books, Specials and Extras.
I am thinking that once I've completed the series, I will write a big review covering all the books. But meanwhile, I want to put down some thoughts about Uglies as it relates to YA dystopian tropes.
As mentioned above, in the world of Uglies, everyone receives plastic surgery upon turning sixteen. From age 12 to their 16th birthday, they live in dormitories in Uglyville. "New pretties" reside in New Pretty Town, spending their days and nights partying and otherwise entertaining themselves.
As you have no doubt noticed, if you have read many YA dystopians, there is usually a major change all of the characters undergo, more often than not at age 16.
Everything changes when you are 16.
The main character typically goes through the age-16 transition (but sometimes resists and/or avoids it). Around this time, the character learns THE TRUTH. There is a dark secret being hidden from most citizens, about the way their society actually operates. Usually, the 16-year old becomes involved in a resistance movement, and more often than not, becomes a leader (or sometimes THE leader).
In the case of Uglies, Tally Youngblood begins the book missing her best friend Peris. Because he is three months older than Tally, he has had his "pretty" operation when she still has another three months to go. She gets into some trouble sneaking into New Pretty Town to spy on Peris, meanwhile meeting Shay, who has the exact same birthday as Tally and is also missing friends who have turned 16.
Having looked forward to the operation her entire life, Tally is shocked to learn that not all Uglies want to be turned pretty. There are rumors about Uglies who run away to live in "the wild." There are rumors about a place called "The Smoke," where people live without the luxuries and technology of the cities.
I don't want to include spoilers here, but I will note that this book has a touch of the dreaded "insta-love" many readers criticize in YA dystopian novels. I had a hunch a character was on his way to becoming a love interest for Tally, but it still seemed very fast for him to suddenly think that Tally was incredibly smart and special. (Our 16-year-old YA dystopian protagonists are just about always special in some way, no?) The other thing, Tally being so smart and special felt a bit like an informed trait. I wasn't seeing as much special and smart in her actions, vs. what she was being told about herself.
Something that intrigues me about the world in this series is the history the characters are taught about the "Rusties." Rusties are their predecessors. Before the current society formed, there was a world much like the one we have now. People did foolish things like burn fossil fuels and wage wars. They lived in large, industrial cities, and at some point, there was a huge disaster that they tried in vain to escape. (I am somewhat reminded of Pompeii, but the hints point to a human-made disaster.) The "pretty" operation was intended to create an egalitarian society. If everyone has the kinds of facial features that humans are biologically programmed to appreciate the most, nobody will be favored or disfavored for their looks. But of course, there must be more to the highly structured society. Who is controlling the masses, and to what end?
To be continued, in my write-up of Pretties.