When everyone is super model pretty, anyone normal is ugly.
Tally Youngblood is about to turn 16. She's missing her best friend Peris, who has already turned 16 and moved out to New Pretty Town. Where Tally is from your 16th birthday doesn't bring the excitement of a brand new driver's licence, but an extreme operation that turns you from a young "ugly" to a stunning "pretty." Once pretty your only job is to go to parties and have fun. But before Tally gets her operation she meets Shay. Shay has startling ideas about conforming to one standard of beauty and decides to run away from the operation and the society that claims she's ugly.
On the day of her 16th birthday Tally is whisked off, not to have her operation, but to be given an ultimatum. Find her friend Shay with all other run aways and betray them or she'll never be pretty. Tally sets out on an adventure that takes her outside of the protections of "civilized" society and reveals the ugly truth behind the pretty operation.
It was a very exciting book with lots of action and some sci-fi elements like hoverboards and interface rings. Westerfeld does a fantastic job of creating a new society set 300 years in the future without over explination and dropping clues about what has driven humanity to this state. Westerfeld leaves us with a rather large cliffhanger at the end of Uglies compelling us to check out Pretties and Specials which round out the Trilogy and show the whole progression of Tally Youngblood.
I just finished this book with a group of 8th graders at a local middle school. The idea was to read the book in 6 parts discussing one section per week. Well, the book was a hit and most of "my kids" ended up finishing the book with in the first couple of weeks. The book has been a bigger hit with the girls than boys and has not gone over well with the younger groups (6th/7th graders).
There is plenty to discuss in this novel from self image and plastic surgery, to conformity and even ecology.
Other Books by Scott Westerfeld:
If you like Uglies you might like:
Twilight and New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
Elswhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels by Libba Bray