Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Book Info
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
© 2005 Simon Pulse, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0689865381

Plot Summary
In the future, science has solved the fuel crisis, mastered hover technology, and found what they think is the key to every living person having the highest quality of life possible: making everyone “pretty.” Too many problems came from the little differences between humans –wars were fought over skin color and religion, bullying brought on by differences sometimes resulted in death, and nearly every person on Earth felt self conscious at some point, but if everyone were pretty, there would be no reason to fight or feel bad about yourself!

Tally was 15, and couldn’t wait until her 16th birthday when she would become “pretty” just like her best friend Peris who underwent the transformation a few months before her. During this wait, Tally befriends Shay who shares Tally’s birthday, but is happy being an “ugly” and isn’t entirely sure about becoming a pretty. A few days before their shared birthday, Shay tells Tally that she is running away to “The Smoke,” a sort of secret commune populated by people who didn’t want to be turned pretty. Tally decides to stay, but on her birthday instead of being taken to her transformation, she is taken to the facilities of a secretive fabled government agency called Special Circumstances. They tell Tally that she won’t be made into a pretty unless she helps lead them to The Smoke. Will Tally betray her friend just to become pretty?

Reader’s Annotation
Tally Youngblood can’t wait until her sixteenth birthday when she’ll finally have the surgery to become a pretty and join her best friend Peris. But when her new friend and fellow ugly Shay confesses that she doesn’t want to become Pretty, Tally begins to question the world she thought she knew.

Critical Evaluation
I really appreciate books that take on complex issues without the reader even realizing that it’s happening, and Uglies manages to do just this. The overall concept of this future society and how they choose to cope with certain social downfalls is a unique and great one. This book tackles the concept of beauty and the side effects of society’s beauty ideals such as low self esteem and insecurities. This future society believes that if everyone is beautiful, everyone will be happier overall, but Westerfeld makes a case that in doing so it takes away everything that makes us unique and wonderful. Flaws make us who we are and make us different and special. This book beautifully illustrates these concepts and how a seemingly perfect world might not really be so perfect after all.

Information about the Author
Westerfeld was born on May 5, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, but as a child, moved to Callifornia and Connecticut for his father, Lloyd’s, job. His mother, Pamela and two older sisters, Wendy and Jackie, rounded out the Westefeld family. It must have been an exciting time, growing up with a father who traveled to new towns to work on the newest types of technology. He had the opportunity to see his dad working with the Apollo missions in Houston, on Boeing planes in California, and on submarines in Connecticut.

Though Westerfeld seemed to live a fairly normal (though not necessarily ordinary) childhood, he received a very prestigious education. He graduated from Arts Magnet High School in Dallas. He then went on to get his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at Vassar (located in Poughkeepsie, New York) in 1985. WIthout a break, Westefeld went right into his graduate work in Performance Studies at New York University. Throughout his life he has held a number of jobs, ranging from ghost writer, to textbook editor, substitute teacher, factory worker and software designer.

Visit the author’s website.

Science Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
If your mind wasn’t affected as it is in the book, do you think a society where everyone is beautiful would be better than the way things are? Or would beauty ideals shift so that ugly would still exist?

If Shay had given Tally more time to prepare, do you think she would have decided to join Shay in the smoke?

Reading Level/ Interest Age

Challenge Issues

  • Reckless behavior and teenage drinking.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Understand the context of the reckless behavior of the pretties, and what it is supposed to represent.

Why Included?
The Uglies series was highly recommended to me by friends, teenage library patrons and colleagues. While there were aspects of the books that I found to be annoying, I thoroughly enjoyed the overall concept and world created in them.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jasmine
    Oct 26, 2012 @ 16:20:45

    Make sure you give credit to people if you use their information. I found the same information published in 2008 here:


    • librarialpursuits
      Mar 09, 2013 @ 17:46:17

      Hi! You left a comment a while back about crediting information. While this is a public blog, it was created for the completion of a final project for a master’s program class. The assignment instructions allowed us to borrow existing author biographies. That very well might be the website I got it from, but citing those sources was not a requirement, as it was understood with the teacher that they were not written by us and I didn’t bother since I was working on a very strict timeline and haven’t touched it since it was graded. I’m sorry if I offended you or the original author, but I also never claimed they were my words. Thanks for your concern.


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