The first time I read this book I was 14. I remember sneakily reading it under my desk during class and a teacher trying to punish me for using my phone. I literally could not put it down. The book swept me away to a city far in the future that solves conflict by making everyone look beautiful — and nearly identical. The high-tech gadgets they use seemed plausible, now more than ever. I reread the entire series in my 20s and loved it just as much. It contains undertones of body positivity, feminism, and wariness of an oppressive government. Sure, many problems would be solved if everyone looked the same, but there is another deeper, sinister level to the "pretty" surgery all citizens undergo on their 16th birthday. Recommended By Anna M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.
But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
"[H]ighly readable with a convincing plot that incorporates futuristic technologies and a disturbing commentary on our current public policies. Fortunately, the cliff-hanger ending promises a sequel." School Library Journal (Starred Review)
"[T]eens will sink their teeth into the provocative questions about invasive technology, image-obsessed society, and the ethical quandaries of a mole-turned-ally." Booklist (Starred Review)
"With a beginning and ending that pack hefty punches, this introduction to a dystopic future promises an exciting series....[T]he awesome ending thrills with potential." Kirkus Reviews
"This book, the first in a trilogy, asks engaging questions about the meaning of beauty, individuality, and betrayal. Highly recommended for SF fans or anyone who likes a good, thoughtful adventure." Kliatt (Starred Review)
In Tally's world, one's 16th birthday brings an operation that transforms them from a repellent Ugly to an attractive Pretty. Tally wants to turn into a Pretty, but her friend Shay would rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, the authorities give Tally a terrible choice.
About the Author
Scott Westerfeld most recent novels are Leviathan and Behemoth, the first two books in a new trilogy. His other novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, The Last Days, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to Peeps. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City. Visit him on the Web at scottwesterfeld.com or follow him on Twitter at @ScottWesterfeld.
Reading Group Guide
by Scott Westerfeld
About the Books
Living in a future where sixteen-year-olds are surgically transformed from "uglies" to "pretties," Tally Youngblood struggles with a choice: to become beautiful and content forever, or to leave the world she knows and keep her own face. Tally's decisions bring her to both locations as well as others she'd never dreamed of, but they also get her in and out of trouble, and force her to grow and change and learn. Westerfeld's books have won many nominations and awards as well as a huge fan following of teens everywhere. Uglies was named a 2006 Best Book for Young Adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.
On your sixteenth birthday, how would you feel about being forced to have the surgery to become pretty? Would you feel like Tally -- looking forward to being beautiful and bubbly -- or like Shay -- wanting to escape the surgery and stay ugly, but remain herself? If your best friend asked you to not have the surgery, what do think you would have chosen to do?
What elements of the Smoke remind you of a camping trip you've taken or one you've seen on TV or in a movie? What advice would you give the Smokies about living in the wild?
Tally has three important guys in her life: Peris, David and Zane. How does her relationship with each of the three effect her decisions at different points in the story? Which of the three do you think made the greatest impact on Tally?
Compare Tally's society with our society today. What are the similarities between Dr. Cable's controls and our own government? Just as Tally and her friends were brought up learning about the failure of the Rusties' society, what lessons can be learned from the future portrayed in the series?
The author created new worlds, new technology and new language for the books. Which location -- New Pretty Town, the Smoke, or Diego -- would you want to make your home? Which of Tally's futuristic possessions -- a hoverboard, a sneak suit, SpagBol -- would you like to own? What were your favorite slang words in the series?
What do you think was the pivotal point in each of the three books? What would you change about them?
What are Tally's strongest assets and her tragic flaws? What about Shay? David? Zane?
Is Dr.Cable a protagonist or an antagonist? At what points in the series does she seem more good than evil or more evil than good? Does she have the best interests of the people of Pretty Town at heart or is she simply trying to gain power and prestige?
If the Uglies series was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the part of Tally? Shay? David? Zane? Peris? Dr. Cable? Where in the world do you think it should be filmed? Who would be the best director for this project?
Who was your favorite character in the series? How did you feel about how they ended up at the end of Specials? Which character do you think is the most like you or your friends?
Imagine that David decided to live in the city of Diego. What challenges would he face there, having grown up in the wild? What would a day in the life of David in Diego be like? Do you think he'd get used to his new life, or decide to return to his old one?
Where do you see Tally two years after the end of Specials? How about Shay? Peris? What do you think Pretty Town and Diego would be like two years later?
Design your own hoverboard. First make a blueprint including what kinds of gadgets you would include in its secret compartments, then make a prototype using cardboard, paper towel rolls, markers, etc.
Act out a scene from one of the books. Assign parts to each participant and choose your favorite scene -- maybe Tally's first trip to New Pretty Town to visit Peris, the invasion of the Smoke by Special Circumstances, or the destruction of the Armory.
Put a pretty spin on a sport (think about the suspended ice skating rink in Pretties) and come up with your own bubbly rules and regulations.
Put yourself in Dr. Cable's shoes. Take turns telling the Specials story from her point of view and include what you think her motives were behind her actions in the previous two books.
Design your own Smoke fashions, Diego surge or sneak suits. What materials found in the wild could you use to fit in at the Smoke? In Diego, would you have a snake for a pinky? How would you use your sneak suit in your everyday life?
Debate the benefits of Pretty Town versus the Smoke versus Diego. Form three teams -- one pro-Diego, one pro-Smoke and one pro-Pretty Town -- and discuss the positives and negatives of each.
Look at the covers of Uglies, Pretties and Specials. Then re-draw your own version of each of the covers highlighting your favorite scene from each book.
Read an exclusive essay by Scott Westerfeld