Uglies – Scott Westerfeld

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I have a love-hate relationship with YA novels, so approached this one with extreme caution. I was prepared for a thought provoking plot, but I was pleased to discover that it was also a gripping, page turner that I’d happily recommend to everyone.

The book is set approximately 300 years in the future, in a world where everyone is ugly until their 16th birthday when they are transformed in adults of uniform beauty. The central character, Tally, is fast approaching her 16th birthday and is preparing to be re-united with her childhood friend, Peris, who has already undergone the operation. Everything changes when Tally meets Shay, a fellow Ugly, who wants to avoid the change, but Shay runs away, leaving Tally to make some difficult decisions….

The book started off quite slowly and after the first few chapters I was beginning to wonder why so many people rave about this book, but then I slowly became immersed in the story and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t put it down. I love dystopian fiction and this world came across very realistically. The book mocked our society in which tall people have an advantage at job interviews, or fights break out over the colour of someone’s skin and their observations of skinny models on our magazine covers were fantastic! I can easily imagine someone deciding to give us all a uniformly pretty appearance in a few hundred years time and it was these thought provoking issues that made the book special for me.

I loved all the characters in the book, the plot was fast-paced without losing any atmosphere and I thought that the twists were great and often unexpected.

This is what YA writing should be like – a fantastic, light read which can be appreciated by all age groups. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Recommended.

 stars4

Have you read Uglies?

Will I enjoy the rest of the series?


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50 Comments

  1. I read the first two and really enjoyed both of them. It’s a treat to find SF that I can easily recommend to any middle grade reader, rather than those who identify as SF readers. I would say City of Ember also falls into that category.

    Scott is a very nice guy, and his wife, Justine Larbalestier, is also an author of excellent SF/fantasy for teens.

    Maybe you would prefer YA written for younger readers? I would say this particular offering could go middle grade or teen pretty easily.

    1. Jackie says:

      Maggi, My problem with YA books is that they are so often poorly written. I often see YA books raved about in the blogging world and then find them very disappointing when I come to read them. (Twilight is the most obvious example)

      I don’t think I’d prefer books for younger readers – I just like anything with a fantastic story!

      1. I guess because I read so few YA books, I tend to only read those that have won awards (except Twilight, I guess!). So I’ve been happy with the quality of writing. There’s junky writing at all levels. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed Uglies though — I’ll be curious to hear what you think of Pretties. So Yesterday is on my to-read shelf, and Leviathan is on my radar too.

  2. Aarti says:

    I have heard so many positives about this book and about Westerfeld’s writing in general. I really want to read something by him! But maybe the first one will be Leviathan.

    1. Jackie says:

      Aarti, I have heard nothing but praise too. I’m sure I’ll get to Leviathan one day, but I think I’ll finish this series first. I hope you enjoy whichever one you decide to read first.

  3. Amanda says:

    I loved this book and the rest of the series, especially Pretties, though some people find Pretties annoying because of their language quirks.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, I’m pleased that you enjoyed this series – you are one of the few people I actually trust to give me YA recommendations – our opinions seem to match most of the time.

  4. Christina says:

    I loved the first one, but found the next two to be lacking the same spark that Uglies had. However, I haven’t read the fourth one, which I’ve heard is just as good as Uglies. I do have to say, though, that I love the cover of the edition you read. Much better than a half face and a creepy eye staring at you.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christina, I’m sorry to hear that the next two are lacking spark. I hope that the plot is good enough to entertain me.

  5. I agree with Christina. And would add that there is a definite decline from Uglies to Pretties to Specials. Nevertheless, I liked both Uglies and Pretties enough to continue on to Specials, but did not like Specials enough to continue on to Extras.

    1. Jackie says:

      rhapsodyinbooks, Sorry that you found the series declinded as it progressed – it will be interesting to see how far I get with it.

  6. I read the first book and I really enjoyed it. I have the second and third book but have yet to read them. I have to take a break in between books in a series. I found myself stuck between sides, I didn’t know which side Tally should choose. Glad you liked it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jennifer, I don’t like to read books by the same author in a row, but I’d quite like to read the next one before I forget too much – perhaps next month. It is the sign of a fantastic book when you can’t decide which side to take – I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

  7. Dorte H says:

    No I have not read it, and as I neither like YA nor dystopian stories, I don´t think I will even though I have read glowing recommendations of it :D

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, This book is probably not for you then!

  8. I don’t think I’ve seen a negative review of this anywhere, and I am a massive fan of dystopian fiction. However, for some reason, this book’s never appealed to me, and I don’t quite know why. Glad you enjoyed it, and hope you enjoy the others equally :)

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, It didn’t really appeal to me either – I’m not obssessed with beauty or body image and thought that this book might be a bit like a celebrity memoir from the future. I’m not sure why I finally decided to give it a try, but I’m very pleased I did, as it isn’t like that at all. It might be a bit light for you, but I think you’d enjoy it.

  9. Simon S says:

    I hadnt heard of this book before your review but as soon as I saw you say YA I knew why. I am always really really sceptical about YA books as an adult as really should we be reading them, I then go against myself and read Harry Potter or Twilight etc. I am still dubious though. This one sounds great though, I like the ideas behind it and also sounds gripping. I will be trying The Hunger Games soon which I am ultra dubious about despite everyone saying how ace it is the premise doesnt work with me… but I am happy to be proven wrong and quite probably will be. Hahaha!

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I have similar issues with YA books. The Hunger Games is fantastic though, so I think you should try that first. If you enjoy that then I’m sure you’ll love this one too. Both books are miles better than Twilight!

  10. mee says:

    The premise sounds interesting and I like the sound of mockery of our ridiculous beauty culture. I refuse to read The Hunger Games because it sounds like a rip-off of Battle Royale, but this one sounds rather unique. I trust your YA selection and I might pick it up :)

    ps: I sent you an email about favorite books and I hope you got it. Just want to make sure it arrived. If you’ve got it, take your time, no rush :)

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I think that people who have read Battle Royale do struggle to enjoy The Hunger Games, but I’m too scared of Battle Royale, so was pleased to read a book that had a similar sotry, but didn’t give me nightmares!

      1. mee says:

        I find it interesting that you have such a scary notion for Battle Royale. If I could read it I’m sure anyone can! :) As far as I remember it’s not more gruesome than Out.

  11. Sandy says:

    I completely agree with the comment you made to Maggi. I find many YA books poorly written and shallow in plot. Even my kids notice the difference now. There are way too many of them that fall somewhere in the middle twilight zone. It is good to know that this one passes the Jackie test. I’m thinking about maybe even letting my daughter read it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I think this would be a great series for you to read with your daughter. I don’t know anything about the audio book, but if there is one then I think you’re whole family would enjoy it.

  12. Melody says:

    I need to pick up this series after reading so many glowing reviews. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  13. Jenny says:

    I started reading this and didn’t get very far – I only picked it up for a few minutes in the bookshop. If it gets better as it goes on, I should really give it another try. I have heard SO MANY good things about Scott Westerfield.

    (I didn’t know he was married to Justine Labestier – nice for them. :) )

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I don’t think I’d have been that impressed if I’d just read a few pages in a book shop. I promise you that it gets better and within a few chapters you won’t want to put it down.

  14. Jenners says:

    I’m glad to hear you liked this one … I just received a copy via Paperback Swap to give it a try as so many seem to like it. But I’m learning that YA is a genre that can have some problems for me. ; )

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I think you’ll be OK with this one – enjoy!

  15. Karen says:

    I haven’t heard of this one at all before Jackie but it sounds like a really interesting concept. I’m not normally someone who likes dystopian fiction but having just finished Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and enjoying it I might just change my mind…

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I haven’t read Oryx and Crake yet, but I didn’t enjoy my only Atwood (Blind Assassin) so am not sure how it will compare. I love dystopian fiction, so I’m afraid I have no idea whether you’ll enjoy this or not – there’s only one way to find out!

  16. Memory says:

    I’ve read all four books, and I think you’ll continue to enjoy them. The quality is consistent throughout, and Westerfeld shakes things up and forces the reader to reconsider Tally’s role in the story with each new installment.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I have a good idea of how I think it will develop. It will be interesting to see if my predictions are correct – I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

  17. Stephanie says:

    I thought Uglies was just ok. And I couldn’t even make it through Pretties. It’s strange, because I am usually a fan of YA Dystopian fiction. The dialogue between the characters just really annoyed me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, That is strange, because I often have a problem with dialogue in YA novels, but didn’t with this book. We must find different things annoying!

  18. Sounds intriguing! I had seen a lot about this book but didn’t know what it was about. One to keep in mind for the future.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I know you loved Hunger Games, so I’m sure you’d enjoy this one too. Your library is sure to have a copy, so I hope you try to track it down.

  19. Stacy says:

    I am picky about ya, since I don’t read much of it, but this one is on my wish list. Your review has made me want to read it even more!

    1. Jackie says:

      Stacy, I’m very picky about YA books, so you know that if I enjoy it, then it will be OK. I hope you manage to get a copy soon.

  20. Rebecca Reid says:

    I don’t really read much YA (2 in 2009) but this was one of them. I was impressed how it did bridge the gap between children’s and adult: it was a “simple” plot but the teen still had to deal with “real” issues.

    Ok not real, but issues one could actually imagine happening, given the situation.

    I haven’t been impressed to read the next though I want to know what happened. The first chapter of the next was in my copy and it was all “airhead” talk that seemed rather annoying.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, Snap! I think I only read 2 YA books in 2009. The first chapter of the next book was in my copy too, but I didn’t read it – sorry to hear you weren’t impressed by it. Hopefully the rest of the book will be better.

  21. The Reader says:

    sounds interesting. south korea comes to mind, where many girls are given operations when they leave school and start university. the standard ones are eyelids and nose. it also reminds me of hollywood, where all the actresses on the magazines start to look alike… i think this would be a great book for young women especially to read, so they question and become aware of the pressure they’re under to all look “perfect.”

    The Reader
    I’m a Bookworm

    1. Jackie says:

      The Reader, I didn’t realise that went on – so sad.

      I agree that this is the perfect book for young woman to read. It would be nice for them to talk about it in school, as I think they’d probably have a very interesting discussion.

  22. Beth F says:

    I was surprised at how much I loved this. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. My niece has been hounding me for years. I’ll make it through the rest of series soon.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, It sounds as though your niece has great taste! It is good you are able to share a love of books with her – I hope you manage to keep recommending books for each other.

  23. Jeane says:

    I haven’t read the book but I’ve seen lots of reviews about it and I just wanted to mention that cover image you shared is the coolest one yet!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeane, It is a great cover! I much prefer it to the one of the girl.

  24. Violet says:

    I really liked this book too. But I wanted to know what you think of the writing. I really didn’t like it that much.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I didn’t have a problem with the writing. It wouldn’t win any literary awards, but was fine for its purpose.

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