Uglies! (January book club book)

Uglies is the book we decided to read for the Adult Young Adult Book Club in January.  We decided on a dystopia theme for January and compared Uglies to The Giver (which I did not get around to).  It’s a young adult book and is the first of a series  known as the Uglies or Pretties series.  It follows Tally Youngblood who lives in a futuristic society where people have an operation to become “pretty” when they turn 16.  Between the ages of 12 and 16 a person lives in a dorm along with other “uglies” while they wait for the operation.

The idea behind the operation is to equalize everyone so there are no more disagreements because people look different.  However, the operation has a side affect that could be very controversial if found out… (I won’t spoil the surprise toward the end of the book!).  Not everyone in this society is so happy about becoming pretty though and some people decide to escape and create their own society away from the cities.  The people who live outside the cities have never had the operation so they actually age and are “ugly.”  The first time Tally travels to this place, she is horrified to see someone who has actually aged and looks 40. The horror!

I loved it and thought it was a great read and a lot of fun. Such an interesting concept too and it makes me wonder if our society is headed toward the same kind of idea; that everyone needs to look the same and there is only one standard of beauty.  Here is an excerpt from an interview with author Scott Westerfield that I found interesting.

Q: How did you get the idea for a futuristic society where everyone is made pretty?

A: We are definitely heading toward a world in which lots of people will get to decide how they look. That will change what we think of as beautiful, and what beauty means to us. So some people stay the way they look, because that’s cool or radical. Some won’t change because they’re rich and powerful—like when famous directors go to some fancy Hollywood restaurant in an old T-shirt and baseball cap; it shows they can get away with it. Other people will try to outdo each other, and manipulate themselves in ways that we don’t consider remotely pretty right now.

So thinking these thoughts, I wanted to write a future in which these technologies were fairly common. And in my future, the local government forces you to have an acceptable face—that is, a certain kind of pretty face. Sort of like now, when adults try to control how teenagers dress, cut their hair, use make-up, and get tattoos or piercings. This is the stuff of rebellion.

(Also, I was inspired by Ted Chiang’s excellent story, “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” about a technology that allows people to switch off their ability to see human beauty, so they can concentrate on the more important aspects of who people are. Fascinating stuff.)

Q: Did you write this book as a cautionary tale?

A: Uglies isn’t about dire warnings, it’s about thinking things through. The more we think about this stuff, the better our choices will be.

But here’s my cautionary tale: I have a gorgeous friend who has a really big nose. When she was sixteen, she desperately wanted surgery to make her look more like everybody else. Fortunately she kept her own face. Because these days everyone agrees that though she’d be cute with a cute little nose, she is totally striking and sexy now because of her fabulous schnoz.

Don’t forget, a few decades ago girls who were “too tall” were given drugs to slow their growth. Now it rocks to be tall. My main advice is: stick to make-up, clothes, hair dye, and minor piercings when you’re young. Everything else is way too permanent.

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1 Comment

  1. May 4, 2011 at 1:42 am

    […] “Everyone in the world was programmed by the place they were born, hemmed in by their beliefs, but you had to at least try to grow your own brain.”- Scott Westerfeld (Pretties) Pretties is book 2 of the Uglies series written by Scott Westerfeld.  (Find out more about Uglies through my blogpost here.) […]


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