The Ugly World of Dystopian YA: “Uglies” Series by Scott Westerfeld

There are many dystopian YA’s (Young Adult) that you can read before you reach the Ugly series. I’ve trekked through the worlds of “The Hunger Games” (before it became a movie), “Matched” and “Across the Universe” among others, these being the most well read. I could say that the “Uglies” series (‘Uglies’, ‘Pretties’, ‘Specials’ and ‘Extras’) is just another run of the mill YA dystopian series, almost formulaic, good for several evenings of mindless fun (at least that is what I thought until I reached the last book).

Ok, so, the “Uglies” series follows the protagonist Tally Youngblood (except for the last book whose protagonist is Aya Fuse) and her goal is to become a ‘pretty’, in a world where everyone is ugly and imperfect until they are 16, at which point they get an operation that turns them into beautiful, statuesque beings resembling gods rather than humans. Of course, Tally gets involved with the wrong people, where she eventually discovers their ‘evil plan’ (I won’t go into details, but you might guess at the plan from a formulaic plot) and she must save the world. At first, she doesn’t want to save the world but then she does. Somewhere in between all of this, she falls in love, she betrays people, she saves the world, and, before book I ends, she gets separated from her love. In book II,  she again, at first, doesn’t want to save the world and then she does. She falls in love with another guy, and in the process of saving the world again, she sees the first guy and she has to decide which guy she likes more, (inhale here) then she gets caught. In book III, she is caught, works on saving the world but first, she chooses which guy she likes, then one of the guys dies, and then she continues to save the rest of the world, the end.

A straight forward dystopian YA with a few changes here and there, then BAM book IV! I’m not sure it was the fact that I wasn’t expecting it, or that it was a breath of fresh formulaic air, but it really surprised me. This book takes place several years after Tally saved the world. It’s basically the mythology of the preceding 3 books but oh, so different. Where the other books are an unabashedly non-veiled, rather shallow critique on our ‘pretty’ driven society, this one is a satire on fame, and the popular reality show-driven society we live in. It’s so different that you can hear the authors voice and opinions, especially with regards to the popularity that comes with writing these kinds of books. Perhaps it wasn’t intended this way, and perhaps I read too much into it, but an author that manages to disguise soul-bearing truths on how they feel about the publishing world, who gets famous and why, and hides it in a YA novel, is seriously worth reading the preceding cookie cutter series for.

If you’ve read the series, including ‘Extras’, then let me know what your take on it was, as I’m really curious to know.

Happy reading



3 thoughts on “The Ugly World of Dystopian YA: “Uglies” Series by Scott Westerfeld

  1. Sofia, you would not believe how hard I am laughing at your brilliant synopsis of books 1-3. It really puts a lot of the YA canon into perspective. Truly a breath of fresh air that book 4 had such an unexpected result, although I think it might be upstaged entirely by your plot summary. Thanks for making my day!

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