In his series, Uglies, Scott Westerfeld introduces readers to Tally Youngblood, a young heroine (I mean, I’m assuming that she’ll turn out to be a heroine, giving her the benefit of the doubt here by upgrading her from ‘protagonist’ to ‘heroine’) who is about to turn sixteen. In her weird and messed up society, turning sixteen marks a rite of passage in a young person’s life. At this point, they undergo extensive plastic surgery to correct all of their natural “ugly” features, surgically replacing them with idealized ones. Whose ideals, you ask? I’m not entirely sure. Apparently, it doesn’t matter because humans are biologically wired to respond to a “certain kind of beauty”:
There was a certain kind of beauty, a prettiness that everyone could see. Big eyes and full lips like a kid’s; smooth, clear skin; symmetrical features; and a thousand other little clues. (Westerfeld 16)
I mean, that does sound like Beyonce and I do have a biological response to her soooo
BUT LET’S BE SERIOUS. This is a load of crap. There is no “certain kind of beauty” that everyone biologically responds to. I would buy that everyone is socially conditioned to respond to “a certain kind of beauty,” but even then my use of “everyone” is flat and problematic so…
OKAY BUT THIS IS A PIECE OF FICTION, CATHERINE. You know, “fiction,” as in not real.
Right. Fine. I was just saying.
So in this FICTIONAL world, after you turn sixteen and undergo this transformation, you become what’s known as a “Pretty”. Before that, in all of your natural glory, you would be an “Ugly.” The Pretties live in New Pretty Town and the Uglies live in Uglyville.
Uglyville sounds like a police-state ghetto, whereas NPT sounds like what would happen if you turned an entire town into a VR night club. There are fireworks, parties, sex and alcohol everywhere. Everything appears to be free. Pretties appear to have zero responsibilities. Party robots patrol the town to encourage people to party harder. Everything is rigged so that people can’t hurt themselves or each other. All the fun with none of the consequences. God I am so worried for everyone in this town.
I gotta say, Westerfeld, I hope that your lack of creativity on the nouns in this book is an indication of greater effort spent on the story’s formal elements because *holy lord dyin’* these are bad:
- Tally Youngblood is primarily defined in the beginning of the book as too young to be a pretty
- Society is divided between attractive people called Pretties and unattractive people called Uglies
- Pretties live in New Pretty Town and Uglies live in Uglyville
It’s as if he put these names in as place-keepers until he finished writing the rest of the book and then, once finished, he thought “Aw, screw it, good enough, let’s get this puppy published already”. That’s purely conjecture, of course (Does anyone know if this happened for real? Because I would 100% believe it)
In terms of plot, I’m only four chapters in, so not much has happened. I’ve met Tally who wants to be a pretty so bad it hurts. Not because she wants to be “pretty” per say (she does, though) but because she wants to be reunited with Peris, her BFF. She wants to be pretty for him. I think I know where this is going.
SO. Peris is three months older than Tally and has already been mutated into this “pretty” thing. Tally sneaks over to New Pretty Town, where Uglies aren’t allowed to go, and finds Peris—she had to talk to him, you guys. REASONS—and he promptly tells her to GTFO of there and to only come back when she’s pretty like he is: “I want to see you pretty” (18), he tells her.
I don’t know about the rest of you but this sounds a lot like high school.
Whilst attempting to escape NPT (she’s being chased at this point because she’s been discovered as an intruder), Tally meets Shay, fellow soon-to-be-pretty trespasser and they manage to get back to Uglyville without being caught. They bond over their ostracism and estrangement from newly-Pretty friends and Shay teaches Tally how to ride a hoverboard.
That’s it, you’re caught up.
Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite: PREDICTIONS!
- Tally will not become a Pretty
- She will try to ‘save’ Peris from being a Pretty, she will try to get him to see her inner beauty and understand that “beauty is not just skin deep” but he’s too far gone. She has to leave him behind.
- I’m betting this whole “Uglies” and “Pretties” thing is the result of a reproduction crisis of some kind, a la Children of Men
- Shay and Tally fall in love (this probably won’t happen but the text is PRIMED for it so I’m putting it out there)
- Tally gets arrested for something, meets “Uglies” who think that this whole Ugly vs. Pretties system is a bunch of BS
- Shay is already one of the leaders of this underground resistance. That’s what she was really doing there that night.
- Tally starts/joins a rebellion against the Pretties/Uglies system
That’s all for now! Coffee beckons.