Tally is a typical teen: that is, typical for the time when and the place where she lives. She's waiting for the operation everyone gets at age sixteen - the operation that makes a person pretty. Oddly enough, this tradition of cosmetic surgery seems to have made society a better place. People are more accepting of others and more cheerful as a general rule.
Not only that, but the world seems to be pretty peachy for most people. There are fewer arguments and more agreements, less poverty and more technological improvements than in past generations. War is but a distant memory, and things are relatively peaceful.
Then Tally's friend Shay knows vows to evade the surgery - and asks Tally to come with her to the Smoke, a special place that accepts people who don't want to have the surgery. Tally thinks this sounds blasphemous. After Shay escapes, Tally is approached by the authorities, who know of Shay's plans - and tell Tally she must follow her friend and reveal the secret location of the Smoke. Tally wants to refuse, but when told that she'll remain an Ugly forever if she doesn't comply with their wishes, she is forced to go on a journey she never could have imagined.
As with some of his previous novels, Scott Westerfeld combines science with fantasy, creating a futuristic world whose architectures and inventions seem plausible. This could very well be our world, evolved - for better or worse - with the passing of time. This fast-paced story held my interest from start to finish. I couldn't wait for the next book.
Pretties opens with Tally and her buddies getting ready for a party. They are extremely happy and "bubbly," all Pretties now, condoning conformity rather than condemning it. How and why did this happen? Readers may be surprised.
Readers who cheered for Tally in Uglies will continue to do so in Pretties. She is sharper in this story than in the previous tale. In fact, "sharper" may be taken literally when she discovers a painful way to reclaim her wits.
Tally must decide whether or not to follow through on the promises and bargains she has made. Not every decision is an easy one, and none of friends will make it through this journey unscathed.
Trilogies often sag in the middle, producing a second book which is not quite as good as the first and not as important as the last. Such is not the case here. Pretties is more than a mere second step. It is just as fast-paced as Uglies and perhaps even more thought-provoking.
Specials offers just as much intrigue and action as the previous two installments.
Now Tally is one of the Specials - stronger than she ever could have imagined, with special privileges and high-powered contacts. But at what price? Sure, she enjoys the power, the strength, the immunity - but she has been given all of these gifts from people who may not have her best intentions at heart.
One thing is for sure: Tally is no longer the blissfully ignorant girl she was a few years ago. She cannot be. She can, however, attempt to right some of the wrongs she has been a part of, and, in the process, change her life and her society.
Readers of Uglies and Pretties will not be disappointed. Specials delivers all that it should and more. The action sequences are packed with octane, an the writing is imaginative and descriptive. The ending of Specials will challenge readers to think, really think, about what they take for granted and what they should truly value.
After the Uglies trilogy came the companion novel Extras; a non-fiction guide to the books called Bogus to Bubbly: An Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies; and a graphic novel series.
The postergirlz selected Uglies to be a recommended read in the August 2008 issue of readergirlz.
More Westerfeld reviews and news at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld
Book Review: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Book Review: The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
Book Review: Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld