author: Scott Westerfeld
series: Uglies #2
published: 11 Movember 2008
publisher: Simon Pulse
genre(s): dystopian, postapocalypse, romance, sci fi
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Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect.
Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.
Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life -- because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.
I truly love this series! The world is a dystopian society based on the ideals of beauty. It is a society that redefined beauty as a conforming concept, a society in which everyone’s entire worth is based on their beauty. The fact that beauty is a manufactured ideal, rather than natural, is of no importance. In fact, the reality that is manufactured forms the foundation of it all, that only created beauty is truly beautiful.
This is a book/series written for the young adult demographic and I am definately not that (!), but it is full of themes that are applicable to us all… at any age. With a society that is based on a conforming, created beauty, there is the inevitable theme of superficiality. Self worth is based on beauty, happiness found in the nonstop parties and pursuit of that beauty. There is also the theme of conformity, or fitting in. While there is no set way to look in the world of the Pretties, there is a fundamental set ideal. There is only so much “wiggle room” within that ideal for individuality, just enough to add to the array of physical beauty without supporting true unique identities. The theme of ignorance is bliss is also touched upon in this book. There is the rather sarcastic implication that living in blissful ignorance is preferable to facing the darker aspects of life. I think this is particularly poignant, considering the state of the world today. There is often the impulse to turn your back on the problems of the world and forget they exist. But ignoring them doesn’t change them, doesn’t solve them.
In this book, Tally has become a Pretty. She is living her life as all Pretties do, beautiful and in pursuit of fun. The problems in the world have disappeared for her in her new life and new mindset. But a message from her past reaches her and she suddenly remembers all of those problems. The fun ends for her, and that choice to face the problems of the world and turn her back on her new easy life is what makes her a hero. Not everyone will make that choice, although even those who choose to embrace the Pretty life are pretty relatable. I think all of us, at one time or another, would like to be able to turn our back and just relish in the good things.
Interestingly, there is a bit of an environmental theme, a subtler theme, but an important one. The environment of the Pretties is sustainable, but overly technological and extreme. The environment of the past Rusties (our own present world) was wasteful and damaging to the planet. It isn’t so much that the author is presenting the environment of the Pretties as the ideal, but perhaps something between the two.
This is a book/series that makes you think and consider your own world and your own beliefs. There are both utopian and dystopian elements to the story and it is an interesting alternative perspective on our own world.
The implications of the world of the Pretties are a little discomfitting in their potential and that inherent discomfort is exactly what makes this book such an engaging read.
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