Through segregation, education and later operation, citizens of this new world are taught to think and act a certain way. The accusations towards the “Rusties” – who could very well be our near future generations – are not the opinions of the author, but rather of a dystopian future born from a nearly extinct race.
Westerfeld creates an intriguing, and not unbelievable future, where physical appearance still plays an integral role in the way society functions. To combat the discord between individuals in society, scientists developed an ever evolving operation that makes everyone above the age of sixteen fit the evolutionary idea of perfect. In turn, making everyone equal.
Of course, as we all probably know from personal experience, being beautiful doesn’t always make you nice and well behaved. That’s still the case in the Uglies series, which is why there is a more sinister edge to the operation.
Tally Youngblood is an Ugly on the verge of becoming pretty when a roller coaster chain of events leads to her learning the truth about society and the Pretty operation. Going from wanting to be a Pretty yesterday to being – if not comfortable – then accepting of her appearance is an intense turn around, and Westerfeld captures the struggles wonderfully.
To top it off, many of Tally’s decisions end in betrayal- from falling for the same guy as a friend, to inadvertently destroying a rebellious city. This leads to a constant struggle within Tally as she strives to right the wrong, while still being true to herself – and her heart.
Uglies is not a book that can be read on its own – the following books Pretties, Specials and Extras all add something integral to the development of the plot and characters. Many readers stop at Uglies for a number of reasons, which is a shame – particularly when they go on to review it. The characters start of as rather stereotypical teenagers, but the course of events leads them to mature and develop in constantly surprising ways.
This is definitely a series I would recommend to teenagers and adults alike, and particularly book clubs. The questions that come up in the books are pertinent to today's society, and it touches on sensitive subjects with care – something more young adult books should do.
On a technical note, Westerfeld’s style of writing is surprisingly concise considering the amount of information offered. This makes for an easy, flowing read that doesn’t make the reader think too hard to picture the scene in front of them.