A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This future society will kick off some great discussions about what beauty is, what conformity is, whether this is a utopia or dystopia, and even what kind of technology is needed to hoverboard around town. It also brings up the environmental cost of our lifestyle: the way we see it now, the way the very recycling-focused Pretties see it, and how the inhabitants of the Smoke saw it.
Raises issues about whether making everyone "pretty" will really "even the playing field" to lessen discrimination and all that comes with it -- jealousy, racism, and war -- or whether altering someone's perception and thinking is what really does it. The way people become "pretty" also sends a strong message about the high price of perfection. The book explores the environmental impact of our world now and how important individual freedoms are and what people are willing to do for them.
Positive Role Models
Tally, the main character, is placed in a position that requires her to be brave, fearless, and strong. Although she should come clean with her new friends about how she found them, she more than makes up for her mistake through self-sacrifice. Her friend Shay also is a strong girl character who questions authority and its wrongheaded ideals. Tally and Shay play lots of tricks and sneak out at the beginning of the book, but the behavior seems to be expected of an "ugly."
Violence & Scariness
A skirmish and a death and the mention of a sad death. A woman is hit in the head and knocked out. The gruesome details of an operation are described. Characters are rounded up and handcuffed, then kidnapped. Plus lots of near-falls on a fast-moving hoverboard.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of kisses and mentions of people making out in the bushes.
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Products & Purchases
Barbie dolls are mentioned disparagingly.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some drinking and drunkenness by New Pretties. Shay wakes up hungover after a party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Scott Westerfeld's Uglies is set in the future and deals with our culture's obsession with physical perfection and hedonism. There's some fighting and a minor character is killed, not seen. A gruesome operation is described. Girl characters especially are brave and stand up to an oppressive regime.
Is It Any Good?
Author Scott Westerfeld manages a delicate balancing act in UGLIES. It's obvious that he had a point to make when he decided to write a book about a futuristic society that celebrates beauty above all else -- and that the world of the book is a not-so-logical extension of certain trends in today's society having to do with physical attractiveness, plastic surgery, mindless consumerism and pleasure-seeking, and divorce from nature. But he never hits the reader over the head with a message and, in fact, allows the lives of the pretties enough appeal to make the argument two-sided.
This intellectual argument is set inside a crackling, though at times maddeningly predictable, story. About two-thirds of the way through the book is a series of events that alert readers will have seen coming a hundred pages earlier, and they'll be frustrated that Tally so stupidly falls into these circumstances. But the final third is a breathtaking race to the cliffhanger ending.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.