Once this book hit my library’s holds shelf I rushed over to pick it up and forced myself to put it in my book bag rather than read it walking back to work. I started it on my lunch break and had a hard time putting it down. I’m really a fan of Scott Westerfeld’s dystopian future series The Uglies featuring Tally Youngblood. I thought the story line was pretty good (not quite as good as the first book, but still an excellent sequel) and that his reveal/twist at the end was quite brilliant as I did not see it coming.
**Spoilers if you haven’t read the first book and want to.**
In the second book in The Uglies series, Pretties, Tally has offered herself up to the society from whom she has escaped. She goes back to let herself be made a Pretty so that she can test out a cure to the brain lesions that appear in Pretties brains. It is revealed in the first book that the Pretty operation to the Uglies, doesn’t just make them look Pretty it makes them think Pretty too. Tally spends the entire second book up to her old Ugly tricks trying to remember what it is like to think like an Ugly so she can escape Pretty Town to go back to New Smokies and live her life the way she wants to. Her new adventures center around her new friend (boyfriend?) Zane who helps Tally stay Bubbly (instead of thinking Pretty) so they can escape.
My one minor irritation with the book was the character of Zane who turned into a love interest. Must we really offer up a second love interest? I I think I see where this is going (ala Twilight) and I’m a bit displeased. I’m getting tired of series where one of the underlying plots is a case of jealousy. I think that is why I really like the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, it moves past the cliches and on to new adventures. Here is hoping that the third book in the Uglies series does the same. [Edit: Interestingly enough as the series progresses the jealousy plot comes from a whole different direction, layering this teenage dystopian with some undercurrents of lesbianism, something not often touched upon in the YA genre. This series ended up being one of my favorites. ]
What Westerfeld is so adept at doing is bringing to life a story about what it means to be beautiful and how our preconceived notions are based on how we are raised, what we are influenced by, and not necessarily what is an absolute truth. One Tally’s character flaws is her ever changing idea on what it means to be pretty, ugly, and average. This is of course amplified by the fact she is still a teenager, and annoying at times that she constantly changes her mind, but it strikes a chord because society’s concepts of beauty are also tainted by how we were raised, what we were influenced by (such as t.v. and magazines), and not what is necessarily true. Ugly can be beautiful too.