Sunday, May 9, 2010

Who wants to be Ugly?

Scott Westerfeld

In future societies, people have discovered a way to end war, violence, jealousy, and hate: make everyone pretty. When people are young, they are allowed to grow up fairly naturally, but society continuously reinforced that they are ugly - left to natural selection and genetics, everyone has numerous things wrong with their looks and they should be ashamed of that. Not to worry, when you turn 16 they give you extensive surgery that makes you pretty, according to a group of doctors who have studied what the human body responds to in others as being pleasing to see or beneficial for a future mate. All Tally has ever wanted was to be Pretty and to move to New Pretty Town where all the other teenagers live and play, wasting their time before they are Middle Pretty and get assigned a career. But when Tally meets Shay in Uglyville the summer before they turn 16, she realizes that not everyone wants to be Pretty and there may be a whole other world out there that she has never known about. But why would the Pretties keep everyone else a secret?

I absolutely loved the premise of this book! Every teenager can relate to feeling like an Ugly - my eyes are too squinty, I am too chubby, my nose is too big. And I would place a bet that 99% of female (and probably male!) teenagers have thought at least one that they wished they were better looking, that being prettier would make their lives so much easier. But, by altering your physical appearance too much, are you giving up part of who you are? What makes you unique? Is there a possibility that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder? That physical beauty is only skin deep?

Aside from the "moral of the story", the story was interesting and more complex that I was expecting, many of the characters were well-developed and interesting, but when the action of the story finally arrived, I thought it fell a little flat. The Big Scene at the culmination of the major plot didn't make me feel like I was with the characters, risking my life as well. And, there were many parts of the story were the coincidences that were needed to make the story move forward were just a little too much for me.

Overall, this was a great book though that was full of moral and social undertones while not being heavy on strict philosophy or sociology. There were also a couple of plot twists that were surprising and kept me reading. I will definitely be reserving Pretties from the library.

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