I vaguely remember when this came out, and somehow, even though I knew the name and heard it literally for years, I never seemed to learn what it was about. I would pass the book in the library in high school, in college, and, most recently, as I wandered the shelves of my current town library, but I don’t know if I ever once picked it up to read the back, until this month.
On the one hand, I’m glad I finally took the time to get to know and read it; I don’t have to wonder what it’s about anymore. On the other hand, I just don’t know if I want to put my time into reading the rest of the series.
The thing is, once I did learn what it was about, the plot sounded promising: a society in which, at the age of sixteen, everyone undergoes surgery to become a Pretty, the physical embodiment of the average of all aspects considered “pretty” by society. The idea is full of possibilities, and for the most part, I think Westerfeld took them to a good place. However, the way it was expressed just couldn’t seem to resonate with me.
To start, for most of the novel, I didn’t particularly like the protagonist, Tally. I understand that she was very much a product of the society she grew up in, but even after she started to change her opinion on the idea of being pretty, I couldn’t connect with her in a way that made me terribly sympathetic. Additionally, it wasn’t until about two hundred pages in that I even started to get truly interested, and only at the end was there enough action for me to even consider continuing in the series. The pacing simply didn’t work to make me want to commit for the majority of the novel. It was a challenge just to finish the book, though I will admit that I’m glad I did. It’s the last fifty to a hundred pages that have me wondering if I want to keep going. I even read the preview for Pretties at the end, I got that hooked.
It wasn’t all bad, though, I swear. There were glimmers of depth within: commentary on the environment and the way we treat it now, as well as commentary on the concept of pretty, both in our present and in the novel’s time. But it never went much further than a character explaining to Tally how the era of the novel was better or worse than the “Rusty” past (i.e., our present day). It was those points that piqued my interest, the ones when secondary characters were beginning to share their opinions. In a similar vein, it was in the setting of the Smoke–the rebellion headquarters, you could say–that the most intriguing exposition came about, helping to build the world the novel is set within and give the explanations that were lacking for a large portion of the beginning. While the action towards the end was good just for pumping me up to read, the Smoke had interesting people who weren’t convinced being a Pretty was the best thing for everyone. It was that rebellion that helped keep me going through the end. Even Tally grew more tolerable, if not entirely likable, the more her thinking changed from shallow and naive to free and open minded.
I think this is a book that had a lot of potential, but didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations. My hope is that if I do choose to go onto the next piece of the series, it really picks up steam. There was a certain oomph that was missing for me through Uglies that it seemed to finally find towards the end. I simply wish it had gotten there earlier on.