Sorry about the late post, I have no excuses. My life isn’t all that hectic right now and I have a ton of book options now that I lifted my female author rule. I’ve just been lulled into complacency with the option of backdating posts. This week I also had a hard time making a commitment to a book. I waffled between several others before arriving at this title. Not because I don’t like this title, but . . . well it’s hard to explain. Just humor me.
Pretties (2005) is the second volume of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies Trilogy. It picks up almost exactly where Uglies left off and the story is fairly involved so I strongly recommend reading Uglies first. If, however, you decide to ignore me, here’s a brief explanation of what’s going on which will necessarily include spoilers (and yes I am quoting my own review):
Uglies is set in the distant future after a mysterious global catastrophe precipitated changes to the foundations of what readers would call modern society. Fearful of war and violence cities now operate as independent states (think Renaissance Italy as opposed to contemporary Italy). Isolated and self-sufficient, the cities have agreed to certain standards for the greater good.
New technology ensures that citizens never want for food or luxury items, weapons of any kind are largely illegal, and at the age of sixteen everyone undergoes a series of extreme surgeries to better conform to societal standards of beauty. The logic being that, since humans are preconditioned to respond to certain visual cues in each other already (big eyes are non-threatening, a clear complexion and good teeth indicate that a person is healthy), applying these beauty standards will reduce conflict and create a more harmonious society.
But in a world where everyone is movie-star-gorgeous (oldies like Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo are considered “natural pretties”), normal people are so not pretty. In short, they’re ugly.
At the end of the first book, our heroine Tally Youngblood also learns that normal people are smarter than the Pretties. As part of the government’s plan to keep the population in line, Pretties’ brains are surgically altered with lesions to make Pretties more complacent. The government’s logic can be summed up in four dangerous words: for the greater good.
At the end of Uglies, knowing now that the operation has to be stopped, Tally makes the ultimate sacrifice–she allows herself to undergo the Operation in order to become an undercover operative of sorts. The only problem is that, because of the Operation, she forgets everything she learned about the Operation, the government, and perhaps most importantly about Special Circumstances (Westerfeld’s interpretation of secret service/black ops types).
In other words, Tally starts Pretties with a basically clean slate. She and best friend Shay know that they lived with the resistance group known as The Smoke, but little else. Looking for something “bubbly” to do as Pretties, the girls decide to join the Crims–a clique known for pulling dramatic stunts in order to stay bubbly and consequently think a little more clearly than Pretties usually do. As Tally becomes more involved with the Crims and their leader, Zane, pieces of Tally’s past begin to fall into place. But, the more Tally learns about her past, the more confusing things become as she has to decide between her past and her present.
Of the trilogy, this one is my least favorite. The characters, being Pretties, seemed the most unreal. Although Westerfeld evoked a very realistic world in Uglies it all rings a little less true here. I love how much slang these novels use and how easy it is to follow, but that too got to be a bit much.
The novel ends on a dramatic note, Tally once again rallying against those who would maintain the status quo. But at the same time, like in Uglies, she is once again a victim of circumstances. So, although the ending is great, it’s also a bit too familiar. Since Pretties is part of a trilogy, it is a must-read to see what happens to Tally. But, in this reviewer’s opinion, the second installment in the trilogy doesn’t quite live up to the hype created by the first.
Possible Pairings: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Legend by Marie Lu, 1984 by George Orwell, Technopoly by Neil Postman, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Life After People (documentary/television series)