Uglies is the first book in the Uglies quartet by Scott Westerfeld. This is my second read through of the book, my first read was over 10 years ago! I’m rereading because he’s started a new series to expand on this world and I want to do a reread of these books before I start the new series. I’m glad I reread this book, I remembered parts of the story but definitely not the main details and I enjoyed getting to know the world again.
Uglies is a dystopian story about Tally, who is an ugly, waiting for her 16th birthday (when everyone gets to become Pretty). She wants to become pretty but makes a friend that has other ideas. Through her new friend, Tally gets tangled up in a world of deception and survival and learns what it really means to become a pretty.
The world building is good. It feels like a more modern world with the obvious changes: castes broken down by age and everyone essentially being “equal” in looks. and the technology is way beyond what we have now. When I read this for the first time in 2005/2006 I was amazed at the technology that they have for every day items, and I still think it’d be cool to have that type of stuff implemented into our lives. The technology of the world is highly unique and well thought out that from safety measures to mundane clothing it all seems really unique. The background and history of the Uglies world isn’t really clear until later in the book, that could lead to some confusion for some people, but I found it really engrossing anyway.
The characters and their development is sort of flat, to me, in this book, I think Tally is really quite boring. She talks about doing tricks and being rebellious but it seems to all be on accident and when she has a chance for a real adventure she downplays it quite a bit. She also has almost no growth, she goes through quite a bit, and while she learns new skills, she doesn’t really become a more mature or stronger person. The other young characters that grew up with her are similar in their flatness, no one seems to have much in the way of history or interesting things to think or talk about. The adults in the book though are made to feel not only more experienced, but more well rounded. I imagine that this difference is done on purpose to show how sheltered the young people of the city are and that once they become old they’ve had some experiences to build character… I think it held the story back a little bit though, because the main characters are dull.
Relationships in the story are more strongly friendship based. Friendship seems to be the driving force behind all of Tally’s actions and her friends are what motivate her to do literally anything. Love interests are mostly just referenced, there is one kind-of love, but it seems to lack a spark for me making me wonder if it will last though out the other books in the series. Nothing explicit happens, just a little kissing is talked about.
Emotions in the book are pretty nonexistent. I enjoyed the ride of getting to know the world again and seeing the crazy technologies, but that wonder is all that drove me forward. I didn’t feel anything for the characters, this could be because it’s an older story and I’ve read many books since initially reading this, in the same dystopian genre, that give me tons of feels. it’s also possible that it’s due to perspective, this story is told from 3rd person perspective and therefore doesn’t have a lot of internalized feelings. There are several moments that could have been more intense, more sad, more happy, more scary, but it all felt like it was just glazed over because it was hard to know what the characters felt.
The pace of the story is really just about perfect. It covers a lot of information in a lot of time, but does it without any huge time skips or long drawn out sequences. The lulls of the story are easily balanced out by all of the action and crazy things going on in the world. I was never bored or waiting for the scene to be over, but I was always eager to know what happened next.
Overall, I give the story 3 stars out of 5. It is a good introduction to the world and full of new interesting technologies. It’s lacking in the emotions and character department for me though, probably because it’s told in 3rd person and it’s nearly 15 years old.