Read for the 2010 YA Reading Challenge.
Tally is an Ugly, just shy of her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll have an operation to make her Pretty. Once you’re Pretty, it’s your job to party all day, with no cares in the world.
Tally’s one of the youngest in her class, so most of her friends have already had the operation, and she’s starting to feel lonely in the Ugly dorms. That’s when she meets Shay, who shares her birthday, and so also hasn’t had the operation yet. They have three months to wait, and while blowing off steam, sneak out to the Rusty Ruins of a city near their own City, from the time before everyone could become Pretty. While they’re there, Shay reveals a secret – she knows Uglies that have snuck away from the City, and are living in the wilderness, still Ugly.
Tally just wants to be Pretty, and when Shay asks her to run away with her, declines to go. Unfortunately, some of the senior Pretties have found what’s going on, and give Tally one option: go after Shay and discover the runaways, or never be able to be Pretty. Tally finds the runaways, and also finds out far more about the history of the City, and being Pretty, than she ever imagined.
This is definitely the most modern post-apocalyptic novel I’ve read – there are references to biology run amok, with invasive species, and the idea that our inability to live in harmony with nature somehow lead to our downfall. The Cities are built on the principal that humans must live in harmony with the environment, or die. I also like the premise of being Pretty – that taking away variation allows people to live to their fullest potential, without fear of being less valued for the way they look. It’s a thoroughly chilling idea – but one you can see a society going with after a great calamity.
This is a great young adult take on post-apocalyptic fiction, and I’m looking forward to the other books in the series.