Uglies, Pretties—the surgeries, the lookism.

Since so many of you resonated with my review of Wonder , I thought you’d like to know about another juvenile/young adult series called Uglies and Pretties. In fact, the series has expanded to include books titled Specials (2006) and Extras (2007). The latter deals with the obsession of so many with fame—something I deal with from time to time in this blog.
 

Young adult lookism. 

 

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Book covers for Scott Westerfield’s hits.

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Set in a future dystopia where things aren’t great, but economic challenges have receded, Uglies  is about a teenager, Tally Youngblood. She lives in a world where cosmetic surgeons turn everyone “Pretty” upon reaching age 16.  After her newfound friends Shay and David show her the downsides to becoming a “,” Tally Youngblood resists society’s enforced conformity. Shay and David show Tally how being a “Pretty” can change not only your look but your personality. The book’s appeal to young adults must be due in part to its treatment of  adolescent themes of looks as well as emotional and physical change.

Big Brother hates asymmetry.

In a subplot in Uglies, author Scott Westerfeld  lays out an in-your-face government that forces citizens to distrust it and its omnipresent Big Brother apparatus. While the substory of Uglies is that this government provides for everything and condemns war and all its side effects, Westerfeld’s true message is that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will.

Uglies is set in Seattle, Washington three hundred years from now. After the operation, new “Pretties” cross a river that divides the city and lead new lives with no responsibilities or obligations, (like the Kardashians?) As Wiki notes, “There are actually three operations; the first transforms people from “uglies” (unchanged teenagers), to “pretties.” Another one transforms “pretties” to “middle-pretties” (adults with a job), and the third transforms “middle-pretties” to “crumblies.”

The book shares many themes with the 1964 The Twilight Zone episode “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You“. In that episode (not to be confused with my all time fave, the “Eye of the Beholder” with Donna Douglas), young adults go through a process known as “the Transformation,” in which each person’s body and face are changed to mimic a design chosen from a catalog of numbered models.In a blog posting, Westerfeld notes that he saw the “Number Twelve…” episode as a kid and had forgotten the details.