Monday, May 15, 2006


I've been meaning to write about Uglies for a while. This weekend I finished Pretties, the sequel, and I'm actually somewhat less interested in talking about it. I might not even read the final one, Specials, when it comes out. Pretties was weaker, the structure that worked as a surprised in Uglies feels awkward when you see it coming. Things get more dangerous, which is something that makes me uncomfortable in the middle of a series.

Well, maybe not. That was never what bothered me about Harry Potter. But I guess there's no feel from Uglies that the characters feel the change, feel things mounting.

But what I thought was interesting about Uglies was the premise. In the future, at the age of 16 everyone is given surgery to make them pretty. The idea is that there is a biological imperative to be drawn to beauty. Beauty is clear skin, large eyes, full lips, symmetrical features. These are things that indicate good health to us on an instinctive level, and they are evocative of small children, inspiring protectiveness. So the point of this surgery is to equalize people, to eliminate subtle but irrelevant psychological predispositions as a factor in life. It also makes you healthier, stronger.

The story is, not unexpectedly, about people who have fled this life to maintain their natural individuality. They live in the woods, eat meat, their hoverboards run on solar power. One girl is torn between worlds. The usual. But the main character, Tally, who wants to be pretty, has a number of arguments with her friend Shay (in favor of staying ugly) that are really interesting. Of course, I'm supposed to automatically understand that staying unique is better, but Tally/prevailing wisdom has some really interesting arguments. And beauty and society are very fully realized themes here. Tally falls in love with someone who never had the operation, and has to learn that he's not ugly. She develops a role in a new community and has to reexamine her role in her old community.

I could be giving it too much credit, but I thought it was really thoughtful for what it was--YA action story.

But I probably won't read the third one. It'll be called Specials. Specials file their teeth; I just can't go there.

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