Book Review: ‘Uglies’, ‘Pretties’, ‘Specials’ and ‘Extras’ by Scott Westerfeld

One of these days I might actually read a book intended for grown ups, but for now I’ll just spread my love of young adult literature across cyber space. I can’t help it!

The ‘Uglies’ series by Scott Westerfeld is plaguing my mind at present, particularly because I have a personal problem with the character of Aya in the fourth book Extras. I just … don’t like her. What do you do when you don’t like the main character of a novel? Do you abandon it entirely or do you try to find something likeable nestled in the narrative? I kept going, though I don’t feel like reading the series has left me with anything profound.

I found Uglies to be interesting and I quite liked Tally as she developed from superficial and self-centred to someone I could understand. Kind of. Westerfeld writes quite simply – it’s easy to move into the world he creates because it doesn’t require leaps of faith or confusing lessons in engineering and spirituality. It just is, and it’s simple and flexible – easy entertainment for anyone into Science Fiction. I actually enjoyed this novel for its entertainment value and was quite optimistic when I picked up Pretties.

When I made it to Pretties I had already decided I favoured Tally, though by then it started to just get a tad frustrating to read – imagine getting stuck in a cave with a bunch of thirteen year old Bieber fan girls. That’s pretty much what it felt like to read Pretties. You start to shudder at the ‘bubbleheadedness’ and wish someone would just pull the plug on the whole thing. Of course, when you make it to Specials (which isn’t hard because it’s terribly easy to read through the novels at a pace you wish you had when you were being tortured with Things Fall Apart in high school) you start to appreciate some of the intricacies of the world Westerfeld has constructed and you feel much more inclined to Vote Tally.

Of course, I’m not too comfortable with the glorification of cutting and the transformation of somewhat likeable characters into Emo-ish idiots. I wonder if Westerfeld intended that message to be made, or maybe I’m just reading too much into it? I was relieved when it all ended, I must admit, though then I had to move on to Extras. Had to. Why continue to torture myself with a world I didn’t find especially appealing? I have a twisted inability¬† to abandon a book or series, unfortunately. Even if the main character does make me want to declare war on adolescent egocentricity.

Extras focuses on a different protagonist in a world that has been changed by the actions that took place in the previous three novels, and Tally does make an appearance. Aya is, however, a very one dimensional character. Despite apparently “developing” in the novel she doesn’t seem much different at the end as she did in the beginning. Not to mention that the world has been ‘saved’ but her priorities remain warped and society doesn’t seem better off it because of it.

As a series, it’s easy to read and has some interesting observations of contemporary western culture, but it’s not something I’d rave about. Rant, maybe.


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