Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review: The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield

U:  Uglies Series—Scott Westerfield

**Be forewarned, this post probably contains some plot spoilers.  I have done my best to cover them up (with a gray box) but some comments might spoil some of the plotline if you have not read this series yet.**
This review will be in a little bit of a different format than normal due to the fact that it was written before I started this blog, and that it reviews an entire series at once.

Honestly, there is not that much to say about these three novels ( Uglies,    Pretties,    Specials ).  There is a fourth in this series, Extras  , which takes place generations after the first three, but after the abysmal ending to the trilogy, I immediately returned the 4th without even cracking it open.
General Summary of the Trilogy
Tally Youngblood is growing up in a dystopian society centuries after a war tore apart the world as we know it.  And in her world, beauty is everything.  At age 16, each citizen is able to get an operation that makes one pretty—beautiful and flawless—and Tally cannot wait for the day when she gets to have the surgery and join her friends in New Pretty Town. 
But then Tally meets Shay, another fellow “ugly” who shares her same late-in-the-year birthday.   Shay does not share the same enthusiasm for becoming pretty, and she shares with Tally her secret—she is going to run away from the city and join a community of permanent uglies in the wild, and she wants Tally to come with her.  Tally declines, and Shay leaves without her, but not without leaving her a cryptic set of directions to her new home.
Tally gets picked up to go get her pretty surgery on her 16th birthday, but she never makes it there, and is instead swept away into a part of the city that people don’t believe exists—Special Circumstances.  Dr. Cable, who essentially runs the entire city, tells Tally that in order for her to become pretty, she must go and find Shay and the community of “New Smoke” where the runaways live.
So Tally sets out on a journey, and reaches New Smoke, but instead of turning them in, she realizes what they all know—the city is horrible and robs you of your freedom.  With the help of David, an 18 year old boy who was born in the wild, Tally becomes a real Smokey, learning that the pretty surgery actually changes your brain, but there is a possible cure that could help fight against the “brain lesions”.  And Tally is willing to help; that is, until she becomes the traitor that wipes out the community of New Smoke.
Everyone is captured except for Tally and David, and they devise a plan to rescue everyone from Special Circumstances before those “Specials” can make all of the Smokeys pretty.  They mostly succeed—but not before Shay has been turned pretty.  At the end of Uglies, Tally makes the decision to return to New Pretty Town and get the pretty surgery, so that she can take the cure and prove that it will work.
And then Pretties is all about Tally trying to get “bubbly” enough to escape from the clutches of prettiness and rejoin the New Smoke, but along the way she makes a new friend in Zane.  Together, they split the curing pills, and together they help plan a revolt and an escape.  And they finally make it to New Smoke, only to be recaptured in about 5 minutes at the end of the book and turned into Specials.
And this is where it pretty much lost me, and I almost didn’t even bother reading the third book.  But I did (well, I in-depthly skimmed over a majority of it while still understanding the general plot), and essentially the story finishes as so:

To view the spoiler, click and drag mouse over the gray box.  If you want to read it for yourself, then skip down to my comments.
Tally becomes a Cutter, a new Special division of the Specials, programmed to recapture New Smoke.  Yet Tally thinks her way to curing herself, and she ends up manipulating Dr. Cable and winning the war for the New Smokies.  But not before Zane’s brain damage kills him.  So Tally and David save the world from the control of the Special Circumstances, but insist on living in the wild together.  The end.


My Thoughts/Analysis:
Scott Westerfield really sets up a potentially good (not great, but good) dystopian story, but somewhere he fails to achieve this potential.  I believe it has a lot to do with the character development.  Uglies does a good job of introducing the characters and letting us into their ugly minds, and we see characters like Tally and Shay and David for who they really are.  And then Shay and Tally become pretty, and we see a new side of them, which is okay in terms of character development because we see Tally’s growth and Shay’s confusion and the introduction of Zane, and that is all satisfactory in my book.  But then we get to the end of Pretties, and things just kind of fall to pieces.  All of a sudden, the characters we have been connecting with are changed again, and this time they don’t recover.  Specials does not do a good job of allowing the reader to continue to fall in love with the characters, and, in turn, we lose them, thus losing the story.
Plus, the ending to this trilogy is kind of a big disappointment.  There is so much build up, with the continual changes to the characters (both physically and mentally) that we expect something relatively powerful at the end.  And yet, we get this dinky, thrown-together ending that neither explains nor expounds upon the storyline, leaving the reader (or at least me) with this sense of negativity and disappointment.

Bookshelf Rating:
 


Uglies and Pretties can both go on the Middle Shelf, but Specials ends up on the Second shelf for tragically ruining the series enjoyment factor for me.  And Extras just got left on the floor.  I couldn't even put it on a shelf.  Thus, the whole series has to get a big fat 2 from me because I wouldn't want to re-read a series I just couldn't finish on principle.  Sad.  Because this really did have the potential to be good.

 

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