Wednesday, 16 April 2014

[Series Review] Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Plot: 

Three hundred years on and society is now peaceful and controlled. Those who turn 16 automatically undergo plastic surgery to become a "Pretty", the acceptable status of the world.

Tally Youngblood is weeks away from turning, excited to join the "bubbly" New Pretty town and her best friend Peri. Whilst waiting, Tally meets Shay who happen to share the same birthday. Except Shay isn't as excited as Tally. She's actually not even willing. One night she disappears and Tally finds herself having to go find Shay or face not turning Pretty at all. Except what she discovers on the journey isn't what she thought she knew.

The series progresses with Tally's initial decision and what the consequences that follow.

Review:

Other than the last book, this was actually my second time reading this series. I remember it being absolutely exceptional and unforgettable. Unfortunately, this feeling didn't come back this time around. It's not that was disappointing, I just felt a little detached throughout the entire time.

I think what had me a little less engaged was the language used. Uglies is a middle grade series, which means it uses language that is a lot less mature than what can be found in Young Adult/Adult. I know there a lot of middle grade books that are written amazingly, but Uglies was a little more simplistic and did feel a little dreary. It did pick up though, with some moments of action and a build up of intensity. On the whole though, I just felt a little detached, and even got annoyed at the terminology constantly used.

My detachment moved onto the characters as well. As a female protagonist, Tally is a good example of strength, equality and intelligence. Yet, there was something about her that kept me at arms length. She felt like a vehicle instead of the character driving the story, which meant I felt nothing for her. I liked that no matter how much they screwed with her brain she could still push through. Except she had to rely on others to help her reach that moment. I didn't like Shay's development throughout the series, because it was basically a 360 transformation. Her character starts out unique and intelligent, but she quickly descended into a shallow and insecure character. It felt like her actions contradicted her mind, because she tells Tally their society functions wrongly but can't get over her jealousy and insecurities.

The only character that stayed with me for awhile was Zane, who's introduced in the second book. I think it was more because he has a different personality, but also that I was required to sympathise for him. His plight definitely ends in the wrong way and I was annoyed that he seemed to have gotten the bad end of the stick. Although, I guess it is possible to see him as a symbolism for the greater good.

What makes this series is the premise. Whilst it's characters aren't unique, the plot definitely explores some issues that society needs to be aware about. It tackles the sensitive issue of physical appearance by pitching what people try to look like vs. the realistic side of things. Shay raises a great concern on why people can't just be satisfied with how they look , but seek to look for acceptance from a beauty standard that has basically brainwashed everyone. It strikes close to home with plastic surgery being a common occurrence nowadays. People want to look a certain way because they think that'll make them beautiful and confident when, in reality, who makes that rule and what gives them the right to?

Reading this series really made me think, and that's why I didn't write it off completely. A great read is something that can bring up a global issue that should be discussed. That's why I think I overlooked all problems I had with the series because of the intended meaning behind it. I applaud Westerfeld for targeting such a topic despite aiming for a younger audience. It means that at least he is trying to engage them in some sort of view, even if they don't agree with it.

The success of Uglies lies in the memorable thoughts it leaves behind. It's not the characters that need to be remembered but what the series speaks about overall. If you want a thought-provoking read, and get to know one of the first dystopian series ever give this a shot. It might just be the mood that affected my reading experience, but I still rate is as one of the few series I really enjoyed.

Rating: 4/5

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