Extras: A review

Extras by Scott WesterfeldExtras (2007) is the fourth book in Scott Westerfeld‘s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling series (originally it was a trilogy). The first three books Uglies, Pretties, and Specials follow Tally Youngblood, a fifteen-year-old girl living in a futuristic world so dominated by plastic surgery that anyone who looks normal is ugly. Extras is set three years after the events of the trilogy unfold, in a different city, with different main characters. The trilogy, however, sets the framework for everything that happens in Extras so while the book is great on its own it definitely assumes you know the story of the trilogy.In this new world, where everything is changing, being pretty isn’t enough to get by. Now it’s fame that matters. The more famous you are, the higher your face rank is. A higher rank means more currency in a world where celebrity is everything.

Everyone is trying to get more attention somehow: “tech-heads” are obsessed with gadgets, “surge monkeys” are hooked on the newest trends in plastic surgery, and “kickers” use feeds (think blogs but techier and cooler because it’s a Westerfeld idea) to spread the word on all the gossip and trends worth mentioning. But staying famous is a lot easier than getting famous. Just ask Aya Fuse. Fifteen-year-old Aya has had her own feed for a year, but her rank is still 451,369–so low that she’s a definite nobody, someone her city calls an extra.

Aya has a plan to up her rank though. All she needs is a really big story to kick. Aya finds the perfect story when she meets the Sly Girls, a clique pulling crazy tricks in utter obscurity. As Aya follows her story she realizes it’s much bigger than one clique: maybe the biggest story since Tally Youngblood changed everything.

Some sequels that bring in all new characters are annoying. Not this one. All of the “new” characters are original and, equally important, likable. The story is also utterly original covering very different territory than the rest of the series. It doesn’t pick up right where the trilogy left off, but a lot of questions are answered by the end of this book.

Like the other books in the series, this one moves fast. The story has a lot of action and several twists and surprises (some old characters even turn up). The plot is never overly-confusing though. Westerfeld does a great job of creating (and explaining) the futuristic world he has created in these pages so that it truly comes to life on the page.

At the same time, Extras is a very timely book. In a world where everyone seems to have some kind of website and is trying to be more popular or more famous, it’s fascinating to read about a city where everything literally depends on your reputation. Westerfeld raises a lot of interesting questions as Aya deals with the ethics of kicking her new story and tries to decide if honesty really is more important than fame.

Possible Pairings: Feed by M. T. Anderson, Jennifer Government by Max Barry, The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Proxy by Alex London, Free to Fall by Lauren Miller, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

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