Scott Westerfeld has been writing out-of-this world fiction series for years, including Peeps, Leviathan, and Midnighters. But my all-time favorite is still Uglies, which was the beginning of a trilogy that wasn’t exactly a trilogy. I love to booktalk books like these because they break the bounds and expectations of their genres. A lot of kids don’t think they like science fiction, but when they hear the description of this book they won’t care what genre it belongs to. They’ll just want to know what happens next.
BTW, I love this book so much that I gave it one of my ten precious votes in NPR’s “Best-Ever Teen Books” list. Have you voted yet? There’s still time!
Tally Youngblood is about to turn sixteen, and you know what THAT means! No more sneaking out at night, no more pranks, no more party-crashing … and no more being ugly. On her sixteenth birthday, she is going to be magically (well, medically) transformed … into a pretty. Tally will go under the knife, and all of her ugly features will be fixed and cut away until only the beautiful part remains. She wonders sometimes about what exactly happens when you’re transformed from an ugly into a pretty. Tally and her friends used to spy on the new pretties, and they seemed different somehow. Not just different because they’re breathtakingly beautiful, but their personalities seemed different, too. Tally once talked to a pretty who used to be her best friend, and it seemed like he hardly knew her anymore. But maybe that’s just what happens when you turn pretty. Maybe when you become that beautiful, you don’t want to be reminded of what you used to be.
Now not everyone wants to transform, and one of those people is Tally’s friend Shay. Shay has been talking for a while now about a mysterious place somewhere in the wilderness called the Smoke, a place where you don’t turn pretty when you turn sixteen. Now Shay has vanished, and the rumor is that she ran away to try and find the Smoke. Tally is ready to be beautiful, and she can’t wait until she finally transforms and leaves ugliness far behind her. But three days before her birthday, everything changes. You see, Tally isn’t the only one who thinks that Shay has gone off to find the Smoke. The people in charge of making you pretty think so, too. They want Shay back as soon as possible, and they believe that Tally can find her. So they give Tally an ultimatum: discover the secret location of the Smoke, find Shay and turn her in to the authorities … or else stay ugly forever.