Blog Take Over: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – A review by Dianne Tanner

Di

Today I have handed over the reins to my friend Di who you should all know by now because I talk about her a lot. Click on the polaroid to visit her stunning photo-blog Icefloe and stalk her as much as I do! Di has taken this opportunity to slag off review a book I recommended to her.

13581049Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend, Shay, isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world – and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Quite famously, ever since I finished reading the Hunger Games, my life has been empty. Bereft of all meaning. There is a Katniss Everdeen sized HOLE in my soul. So when Lauren [That’s me, Hi!] handed me this book UGLIES with the quote “BEFORE THE HUNGER GAMES, THERE WAS… UGLIES” emblazoned on the cover, I will admit, I was interested. At this point, I’ll read anything with a quote to this effect on the cover.

If you suffer from the Katniss Soul Hole let me save you some time and tell you that this is not the book you are looking to fill it. This book, is gash.[Bit Harsh, Tanner]

Tally Youngblood lives in “Uglytown”. Here she waits until she turns 16, where she will undergo some form of plastic surgery to be transformed into a “Pretty” and move to “New Pretty Town”. It must have taken months to come up with those place names. Currently, she is “Ugly”. Sigh. Then she meets a girl called Shay (also “Ugly”) who thinks the whole thing is a bit stupid and runs away, chaos ensues.

Are we supposed to like these characters? Because there was no point in this book at all that I connected with any of them. I guess maybe its aimed at a slightly lower age bracket then The Hunger Games so the writing is a LOT simpler. A lot of it feels like it was edited quite heavily, I spent a lot of time feeling like there was supposed to be MORE to a sentence, more to beef out the people, relationships, everything you are supposed to get your teeth into. Nothing about this book gripped me. I didn’t even finish it. I stopped reading about 100 pages from the end because I went away for the weekend, and have no inclination to pick it up again.

The main protagonist, Tally, is vapid and shallow. And stupid. She just cannot wait to be pretty. I actually found the concept and “science fiction” bits of this quite interesting. I feel like it could have been so much more. When Tally runs away to the “smoke” where people live like actual people (ew, they like, live in the woods and stuff! Fuck off Tally) I started to perk up, Tally meets the people who moved away from the “pretty” world people live in (I’m even sounding vague here because the whole thing is so vague in the book I can’t even begin to explain it) to the woods, you get more of a feel for what could have been. There is some good stuff there. But the whole tenuous “love” story – I guess I missed the part where Tally fell in love with David, it was sudden, unromantic and baffling. Ridiculous. The whole thing is just ridiculous. Part of me was left wondering if this was because it was written by a man? I love a good nonsense love story (the entire point of YA in my opinion is to be a 30 year old woman on a train to work feeling trying to capture that teenage feeling again) and this book is sorely lacking that.

Did I mention how STUPID Tally is? She gets given a little tracking necklace to wear which she knows her friend will be like “dude wtf is that necklace?” and she doesn’t just take it off before she gets to the Smoke, OR doesn’t just throw it in the river where it will vanish forever. No. She puts it in the fire, where it explodes, and goes of. What an idiot. I was literally screaming at this girl by this point. [Hahaha I KNEW you would be!]

There are hoverboards though, and everyone loves a hoverboard. But did we need 2 chapters about how Tally can’t ride one yet? No. No we do not.

When trying to explain to someone the concept of this book when I was reading it, I ended up ranting about how if I was an actual teenage girl reading this I would probably kill myself. I guess maybe you have to read the rest of the series to get to the part where Tally realises that looking the way she was born doesn’t make her “ugly” but frankly all this book does is demean women and leave you feeling bad about the way you look. Every time Tally speaks all she talks about is how she cannot wait to have plastic surgery to make her look like everyone else (The thought of seeing a person who has aged naturally disgusts her, and she can’t even look at them. That’s not ok).

Am I missing something here? Was this book supposed to be some kind of social commentary on the way women are made to feel by magazines these days? [That’s what I got from it, yes]Tally constantly bemoans her “too small eyes” and “frizzy hair”. Teenage girls don’t need to read this kind of thing. Teenagers don’t need to hear that “biology” tells them that being better looking makes life better.

Does this series get better? [It really does!] Do I have to read 2 more books to get to the point where it turns out that gosh darnit *slaps thigh* Tally was wrong the whole time and has seen the error of her brainwashed thinking?

I refuse. ONE STAR.

Dianne Tanner
http://www.diannetanner.co.uk/

Uglies was published March 29th 2012 by Simon and Shuster

Want More?: My review of Specials (Uglies #3) is here.

A Scary Vision of the Future: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

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“Special Circumstances”: The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now she’s been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.Image and Synopsis from Goodreads.

Woah Long Synopsis. Some minor spoilers further down, nothing too ruin-making though.

So I read Specials probably about a year after reading the first two books Uglies and Pretties and I couldn’t really remember where it left off. But true to form Westerfeld went straight into this book all guns blazing.

I loved that the book started right in the action with Tally and Shay back together again and now both Specials, the cruellest and most modified of them all, up to their usual tricks as if they were Crims again. As it all started coming back to me I remembered where Pretties left off, how terrifying the Specials were and how much Tally had not wanted to look at them, never mind be one.

I found Specials quite creepy (and riveting) in that way, as we go along with Tally on this journey knowing that her mind and body has been altered once again without her permission. She knows something is not quite right but she can’t grasp what. She’s superhuman and can do almost anything; can kill with her bare hands; she feels great and she thinks she looks great but the whole time we know that if she could just snap out of it she would see what they have done to her.

All three of the books in this series so far have been imaginative, fun reads that have obviously kept me coming back for more, but I definitely have some gripes. Tally for one. I found her pretty annoying in the first two books, always changing her mind, always doing the wrong thing-apologising-doing it again, and in Specials she’s even worse. To be fair, that’s the way she’s supposed to be as Specials, especially this new ‘breed’ called Cutters that Tally and Shay are part of are supposed to see themselves as superior to everyone else. Even the normal pretties, who have already been modified to be perfect beauties look hideous and weak to them.

Shay doesn’t get away without a slagging off either. I mean, one minute her and Tally are BFFs and then she’s telling her how self-centred she is. I mean, she is, but don’t pick and choose when to like her in that case. Maybe their relationship was supposed to demonstrate a true friendship. As in you don’t always have to agree or like each other as long as you’re there for each other. Well even so, if that’s friendship I think I’m doing it wrong.

On the up side, the whole world that Westerfeld has created in these books is totally ballsy. It’s a huge comment on how we, as humans are destroying the world, the shallowness of society and also the cost of beauty and I absolutely salute him for that. Using this sort of sci-fi – bizarro world to get that message across is pretty damn awesome. I don’t think parents would be all that pleased for their kids to read this though, with all the cutting themselves to feel clarity, starving themselves, the general lack of morals…and that’s a thought, where the hell are all the parents? The only ones we hear about are David’s, who is a rebel through and through and has never had the Pretty Surgery. Hmm.

I was rooting for David btw, I mean Zane was OK too and I liked that he loved Tally enough to take the pill at the end of Pretties but David just seemed cooler. His parents had started their own colony and were single-handedly saving the world after all.

Despite a few plot issues towards the end such as Dr Cable and the whole of Special Circumstances being bought down so easily (why had no one tried to stop them before if they were really such small fish in a big pond like they turned out to be?) and there not being enough Andrew Simpson Smith (he was hilarious – loved him), I thought Specials was a good ending to the series. Tally stayed true to form in making herself the important one right to the very end, but at least she left us with an important message: Freedom has a way of destroying things.

I don’t know why Westerfeld felt the need to write another book after this one, but I suppose I’ll have to check out Extras too, pull my arm why don’t you.

One last thing, if you liked this series you should totally watch Antiviral. Some similar themes, MUCH more creepiness AND Caleb Landry Jones is such an anti-babe. Anti-babe…I like that!

I gave Specials 4 unicorns out of 5. It is published by Simon and Schuster.