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Extras: Uglies Quartet, Book 4
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this last book in the Uglies series is a great way to discuss celebrity and technology obsessions with teens. The main character, Aya, can't live without her hovercam and is desperately trying to get famous, even if she has to step on some toes and lie her way there. She joins up with a group of daredevil girls who hitch rides on fast trains and parachute and has some run-ins with needle-wielding creatures, but for the most part the violence is the mildest in the series.
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What's the story?
Aya is dying to \"kick\" an amazing story and become famous. Unfortunately she's only 15, still an \"ugly\" (no pretty surgery until 16) and living in a fame-obsessed city that thinks of her as a total nobody, an extra -- her superlow \"face rank\" proves it. She knows she can get people to listen when she infiltrates the underground Sly Girls group. No one thinks they really exist because they actually try to stay off the grid, but Aya's ready to change that. She lies to them and even risks her life jumping on high-speed trains to gain their trust. But in a train tunnel is where she uncovers an even bigger story, something that she's sure proves that her peaceful world is ready to fall apart at any moment. She just hopes her hidden hovercam has given her enough proof to help her save the world ... and raise her face rank through the roof in the process.
Is it any good?
For an extra book in what was supposed to be a trilogy, this doesn't feel like a cheap add-on. EXTRAS presents readers with another city within Westerfeld's futuristic world, after everyone's minds are freed, to see what can happen. Crazy body modifications, cliques, cults, and a fascinating "reputation economy" happen. A form of blogging on hovercams happens. And there's the main character's boyfriend Frizz who altered his brain so he can never lie. Frizz and the off-the-grid Sly Girls help keep Aya in line. And Aya seems like what would happen to many of us in this society: recognition will get us that amazing apartment and all the tech toys we could dream of, so it's fame at all costs.
Unfortunately once readers are all caught up in this fun tech-y world it seems like the author suddenly remembers he's supposed to end the series here. Extras' heated conspiracy theory fizzles out and everything wraps up way too neatly. Even though fans will wish for a better series send-off, there's plenty to capture their attention -- and to think about later.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about celebrity. Do you think Aya's "reputation economy" is a good idea? Are there similarities between Aya's society and our own?
Families can also talk about media overload. Aya's hovercam is like a friend and a blogging tool -- and a way to record and preserve every moment. She's in a panic without it. Do you have any technology you rely on? Do you think you'd ever rely on something that much?
What did readers think of the Uglies series as a whole? Could the author have kept it going or is it better to end it here? Did you like Aya as a main character as much as Tally, the main character from the first three books?
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