(Note: The above cover is not from the original first edition, but the cover on the copy I purchased and now own)
Series: Uglies series
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Goodreads Link: Goodreads Description
(Note: This review may contain spoilers. If you want nothing spoiled, please skip to the bottom for my spoiler-free summary of the review)So Westerfeld's Uglies series was one highly recommended to me. Naturally, I had to read it asap. The premise of the plot is what pulled me in: a society where at the age of sixteen you can get surgery to look 'pretty' just like everyone else. My first thought was 'Oh my goodness, that is just horrible! No one should be made to feel ugly, but this society is making everyone feel ugly until they turn sixteen'. Imagine living almost a quarter of your life thinking you were ugly and there was no way to improve your looks except with surgery at age sixteen. That in itself fascinated me, and I wanted to know exactly how Scott Westerfeld's story would play out.
To be honest, I'm still a little confused as to the point of it all, because I was expecting Tally, the protagonist, to realise that looks aren't everything. After reading Uglies I figured that she would in the end, but the books took the story on a completely different track. And honestly, I'm not sure if I even enjoyed them after reading Uglies. Sure, the society was interesting to read about and Scott Westerfeld described it amazingly. It was very interesting learning about all of the technology and how the Rusties (basically, us) were killing the earth with all of our expansion -- a point, by the way, that I'm glad he brought up and dealt with, since (***major spoiler alert. Scroll away now***) in the end, Tally and David went around protecting the wild from possibly city expansion. But let's not be too spoilery now.
I enjoyed the first book most in this series. In the beginning, it was interesting seeing how much Tally wanted to become a Pretty. I'm really glad she was not a character who already rejected the whole idea and was not rebellious from the get go, because this way we get to see the way this society had corrupted people's minds. When we met Shay I instantly loved her. She was fun and I thought she would be the one to make Tally see the light (that looks aren't everything). Of course Tally is unsure right away, but keeps her friend's secret -- that is until the government comes after her hoping she will lead them to Shay and The Smoke. Then Tally takes the deal (betray her friend and lead Dr. Cable to The Smoke), since all she wanted was to become a Pretty. As I expected, Tally got used to the idea of living out in the wilds, and even found a love interest who began to show her that being 'ugly' wasn't a bad thing. It's the person inside of you that matters. Finally, I thought. Let's get this story on a roll. But of course, things went wrong, and I won't go into detail, but things get very interesting. I really like David (Tally's love interest) because of all that he teaches Tally. He is probably the most refreshing character in these books, and the only one I actually can stand. That's not to say that I hated everyone else, though.
A bomb gets dropped on us by David's mother which reveals the true reason this post-apocalyptic series contains a dystopian society. Again, spoiler ahead. Readers, beware. It turns out, when sixteen year olds get their Pretty operation, their brains are also modified with lesions that control their mind. People aren't under complete mind-control, but they do lose a part of themselves and basically become all the same, all with the same 'bubbly' personality. The new pretties, for example, spend their days and nights partying and sleeping with no adult supervision. And they don't really need it since their minds have been configured to work the way the government wants them to. This is what really got the inner plot going, and I thought Hey, cool. So finally I get the plot of this series. Tally and David and Shay will most likely work together to bring down Special Circumstances and remove the lesions from everyone's brains and teach everyone that looks aren't everything. I was partly right.
But then Tally gets captured. And then she gets turned into a pretty. And then she's against the Smoke. And then we see what her life is like as a Pretty. Honestly, after Uglies I was not a huge fan of what was going on, so I'll keep this bit short. I felt a lot of what happened in Pretties was dull. And when at the end Tally gets captured again and we start off Specials with her pretty much in the same place as we started Pretties (with her separated from David and the Smoke on the side of Special Circumstances), I got really annoyed. The plot took us in a complete circle, and still hadn't begun to explain how Tally was able to get past the lesions on her brain. She was able to bring herself out of her 'Pretty' mind, but we never learned how that was possible. Why was Tally able to do that and no one else? That was an end left untied that really bothered me.
Another thing that bothered me about this series is that in the end, Tally still thought looks were important and was still revolted by David's 'ugly' that she couldn't be with him in a relationship anymore. The only thing that had changed about Tally was she became more stuck up and arrogant. I was really disappointed that in the end she didn't realise that it's a person's personality that mattered. I thought these books would have that as its moral, but I was very wrong. Disappointing.
Also in the end I could not stand Shay. Or Tally. If I had not been determined to finish this series and hoped they would change, I might not even have stuck it out. It really kills a book for me if I dislike most of the characters. But the world Westerfeld created is what kept me reading.
*No major spoilers whatsoever at this point of the review. If you scrolled down from the warning at the start of the review, hi! This part of the review is safe to read, I promise.*
So for me, I could not really get past how Tally still thought 'pretty/special' people were better than the 'uglies'. However, I read the entire series and it was an okay read. It was full of a lot of action and adventure (at least in the second half of most books), and the society that Westerfeld built is certainly interesting to read about. What with all of the technology already being created nowadays to improve one's appearance, I think this society is completely plausible. I could see this happening. I just wish there was a moral to the story Westerfeld tells, or at least one to appeal to teenagers and young adults. It would improve my overall opinion of the books, that's for sure.
I will not be reviewing Extras, because I did not enjoy it at all. Why? I'll give my simple answer: I saw absolutely no point to the story told in Extras. It could have been a series on its own, perhaps, relating to the world created in the Uglies series. But you could honestly read Uglies, Pretties, and Specials and never read Extras and you won't miss anything.
I know that a lot of people loved this series, and I wish I enjoyed it as much. Tell me, if you liked it more than I did, what was it that you enjoyed?
If you didn't really enjoy it, share your thoughts! I'd love to discuss this series with you.
Share your thoughts in the comments :)