Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld, (Simon Pulse, 2005)

Several hundred years in the future, after civilization has collapsed and been rebuilt, all of human society is divided into two categories: the uglies, and the pretties. Until you turn sixteen, you’re an ugly, forced to live in giant dormitories with others just like you, spending your time learning and playing pranks, full of youthful enthusiasm, but always aware of your physical shortcomings. Whether your nose is too big, chin too narrow, your ears stick out, or your eyes are too close together, you’re ugly. But once you turn sixteen, you’re transformed and enhanced through extensive plastic surgery and other procedures, becoming one of the vacuously happy pretties, leading a party-filled life in a paradise designed for contentment. This is the world Tally has grown up in, and it’s everything she knows. But when her friend Shay chooses to run away rather than become a pretty, Tally is forced to make a difficult decision: do the bidding of the authorities by seeking Shay out in the vast wilderness and bring her back, or stay ugly forever. Tally chooses the former option, and thus begins a quest that’ll take her out of the world she’s known, and into an entirely new society. Because out there, far from civilization, there are others who refuse to become pretty, and they know the horrible secret which lies at the very foundation of pretty society. Will Tally make the ultimate sacrifice to save her new friends and family?

Westerfeld has really established himself as an excellent, imaginative writer of young adult science fiction of late, and Uglies, the first book in a new trilogy, proves that he’s got what it takes to stay on top of the game. He lays down believable rules and guidelines for the society he explores here, and the more we learn, the more interesting the mystery at its heart becomes. With two books to go, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Westerfeld has planned, but he hasn’t disappointed yet with his YA offerings.

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