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*****= An all-time favorite
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by Scott Westerfeld

Reviewed June 26, 2006.
Simon Pulse, New York, 2005.  425 pages.
Available at Ramstein Library (J MCN F WESTERFELD).

Scott Westerfeld spoke at the Children’s Writers’ conference I attended before the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.  During the conference, he presented a talk on writing synopses, and presented the synopsis he used to sell his Uglies trilogy.  I was so intrigued by the plot, I had to read the books.

Uglies is set in the distant future, after cities on earth have been destroyed and rebuilt, this time not dependent on fossil fuels, and practicing sustainable development.  In fact, they’ve abolished prejudice—by making sure everyone looks beautiful.

On their sixteenth birthday, each “Ugly” undergoes a major operation.  Scientists have studied what facial features people find most attractive.  Faces are made symmetrical.  Eyes are widened.  Skin is removed and replaced, flawless.  Even body fat is removed and heights are changed.

Unfortunately, Tally is one of the youngest in her year of Uglies.  So all of her friends become Pretty before she does.  She tricks the system to go visit her best friend, Peris, in New Pretty Town.  New Pretties do nothing but party and have fun.  Peris hardly seems to remember her.

Then Tally meets Shay, who was born on the same day.  As they wait for their day to become pretty, Tally is surprised that Shay doesn’t want to talk about it.  In fact, a week before their birthday, she takes off, going outside the city to a mysterious place called The Smoke, meeting someone with the odd name of David.  She leaves cryptic instructions, just in case Tally wants to follow her.

When Tally’s turn comes for surgery, there’s a small problem.  She’s taken to Special Circumstances and given a terrible choice:  Either go to find Shay and betray her location to the Specials, or remain an Ugly for her entire life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It’s based on intriguing concepts that get you thinking, but it also presents a suspenseful and exciting story, with characters you care about.  Tally’s faced with some terrible choices, and we can feel her anguish in making the decisions.  I can’t wait to read the next book!

Reviews of other books by Scott Westerfeld:
So Yesterday

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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