Book Review: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld


Uglies Book Review

It has taken me an inexplicably long time to read just one book. I am actually a reasonably fast reader I can sink a few books in a week if I have the time. Alas, baby Black has prevented this from happening, and shamefully, not only is this the first book I’ve finished this year, but worse this particular book has taken me way over six months to read. Tut. But huzzah I have finally finished it.

I have only (from memory) written one other book review, for A Disturbed Girl’s Guide to Curing Boredom, because I loved it so much I felt compelled to write about it on amazon and goodreads and such like.

But having read a few posts recently, about the benefits of book reviews, and the difficulty people face getting genuine ones; I figured it was my duty (as a budding writer) to review every book I read henceforth. So I will, and I will post them here, because where better? I will also reference them on my Reading for leisure list. But more importantly, I am going to try and sway the percentage of books I read towards the indie end, there are a couple of traditionally published books out this year, I have been waiting for, but otherwise, I am going to take a leaf out of Dylan’s book and ‘Pay It Forward

I’m caveating this review because I have no idea if I will say the right things… feel free to tell me if I have missed anything that should be covered in a review…?

To the book – Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld can be found on Amazon if you are interested in buying it.

Uglies Book Covers

The Amazon Book Blurb:

Tally lives in a world where your sixteenth birthday brings aesthetic perfection: an operation which erases all your flaws, transforming you from an ‘Ugly’ into a ‘Pretty’. She is on the eve of this important event, and cannot wait for her life to change. As well as guaranteeing supermodel looks, life as a Pretty seems to revolve around having a good time. But then she meets Shay, who is also fifteen – but with a very different outlook on life. Shay isn’t sure she wants to be Pretty and plans to escape to a community in the forest – the Rusty Ruins – where Uglies go to escape ‘ turning’. Tally won’t be persuaded to join her, as this would involve sacrificing everything she’s ever wanted for a lot of uncertainty. When she is taken in for questioning on her birthday, however, Tally gets sent to the Ruins anyway – against her will. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she could ever imagine: find her friend Shay and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. What she discovers in the Ruins reveals that there is nothing ‘pretty’ about the transformations… And the choice Tally makes will change her world forever.

MY REVIEW:

I was originally drawn to Uglies, because it is comes from my favourite genre. YA Fantasy/Dystopian fiction. But also that’s what I am trying to write so I have been consuming everything I can get my hands on! Most (not all) books in this genre are written in the first person. Anyone who has read this blog for a while would know, I have a strong distaste for third person novels… unless they are written so well I can’t tell. I’ve even ranted about the third person POV, in the third person POV! So when I started reading Uglies, I did struggle to get passed the POv. I found myself annoyed by the protagonists name being littered across every page, and multiple ‘Tally felt this, or that,’ made the character’s emotions seem dubious at best.

That being said the concept of this dystopian setting was fantastic. I think it’s highly relevant to the model and surgery obsessed teens of today. What a pertinent and timely reminder to readers of the YA genre of the dangerous surgery and looks obsessions pose. For it’s appropriateness as a moral and ethical centrepiece for its targeted age group, I salute it. I would happily go under the knife, and It made me stop and think.

This book was painfully slow to start, I nearly gave up on a number of occasions. But several friends who have read it to the end encouraged me to persist because it ‘gets better’ as do the sequels (so they say). So I persisted, and to a certain extent they were right.

The book speeds up, eventually, but not until precisely 64% of the way through. I say 64% ‘exactly’ because, judge me not, I read the thing on my iPad kindle app. The point is I actually took note of when I started to enjoy the story. 64% is too far in to have kept me captive under normal circumstances, if it wasn’t for my friends I would have given up at 30%. I am a fan of speed, pace and action, this book does not give that until two thirds of the way through. And yes, I get that theres a story arc and most of the tension and climax comes at the end. But the world setting and history filling in, was too long, and too slow. I can’t for the life of me even remember what happened before 64%.

Sadly I didn’t feel much of anything for the protagonist either,ok, I did, a bit. But I didn’t cry, or get worried and feel bereft when I finished the book, and believe me, some books definitely do that to me.

By the end of the book, I was reasonably satisfied because it had action and was pacey. But, in the last couple of chapters, there were long paragraphs of description, it felt like the author was running out of words, and couldn’t afford the dialogue. The ending itself was not overly satisfying. It ended, and some storylines were closed. However, it was left wide open for the sequels, so much so, I didn’t really feel like I got closure on anything. I know that series are meant to be left open, (we have to make money somehow) but shouldn’t a book also give closure inself? I think so.

Would I recommend this book? If you read this genre regularly, then you will probably love it. At the moment, I expect the spectacular, I want to be wowed and inspired to write, not feel like I could do better. But, if you like YA fantasy/dystopian fiction then I would say, give it a go. If you don’t, don’t waste your time.

At a push, 3 out of 5.

29 comments

  1. Reads like a great review to me! You read a book as a reader, not a writer. And you review for other readers. As long as they have honesty and integrity, its a good valid review… and I enjoyed reading it, too!

    Personally, I dont bother reviewing trad pubbed books anymore. They already have hundreds of them, anyway. But they are lifeblood to Indies, so I always review them.

    Great review, Sacha! Seems like an excellent and timely premise for a story that was never fully explored. I find this often with trad pubbed books, particularly if they are aimed at the younger market… as if young people need to be cushioned from real life. Indies dont have any such constraints put on them, so themes are often better explored, and thus more satisfying… in my opinion.

    1. I hadn’t thought of that – that you write a review for a reader but that’s so true! What a good point I will have to keep that in mind next time. Thank you for saying you liked it I was pretty nervous not having published one before and what with there being a LOT of good reviewers out there. Ah yes well my intention is to try and read a lot more indie authors going forward although there are still some trad books I want to read too. But I liked Dylan’s concept of paying it forward 😄

      Yeh you know that’s what worries me about the traditional publishing route they have so much control over your manuscript they can soften or enhance whatever the hell they like and there’s not really anything you can do about it :s

      1. True… but no point in worrying about it till you get there. Just write it how you think it should be written, and take it from there… and get a bloody move on, I want to read it! Says the slooooowest writer in the world!

          1. Grr I hope it sent. Usually I would have replied earlier but cause of NaNo im having to do it all late at night! lol trrrrrying to get it finished!

          2. I visited your site and saw it. Dont know why it never showed in my notification feed. Dont stay up too late working. But good luck with Nano… you REALLY love your writing challenges dont you??? 😀

          3. I dknt know… maybe! I definitely enjoy yours! And I’ve written and submitted a couple of shorts in last few days, but havent gone looking for any other challenges yet. Really need to get stuck into my book, but cant face it till kids are back in school. Roll on next week! 😀

  2. Well, you pulled your punches there, didn’t you!!? Honest, pithy, entertaining and enlightening. That’s what you want from a review. And fair too, if I can judge without reading. For an Indie you make it clear, if you lean to that genre then for it but if not then this isn’t the place to find out if you like that genre, you are doing everyone a favour. Well done. Maybe you should skip the writing and stay a critic (soz, poor taste…)

    1. Hahaha. Thanks I think…bit of appreciation followed by a dollop of abuse! 😜 glad you liked it. I kind of liked writing it actually was something completely different. Sure you want me to read your book…. 😝 maybe I’ll end your review with “he shouldn’t have given up the day job” JOKING JOKING! 😂

  3. My friends and I all passed this book around in middle school!! At the time I remember we loved it. Read it a few years ago again, and hated it. I totally agree that the protagonist was meh, and the love triangle that comes later in the series is so stupid. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother reading the rest of the series because eventually it gets so ridiculous it isn’t even fun anymore. So glad you found it as dissatisfying as I did.

    1. Love triangle? Do tell? I can’t even think who that would involve? Or is it David with two girls shay and tally? If so that is stupid! Ok. Right that’s it. I’m scrubbing them off my list! Thanks for the heads up ☺️

  4. I don’t read much YA fiction, but I greatly enjoyed a couple of Westerfield’s non-YA novels (The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds), so I’ve been curious about Uglies.

    1. Ooh. Ok this is interesting I knew he had written lots of other stuff I just didn’t know what it was. I might try one of these thank you for the recommendation ☺️

  5. Ooh. I’ve been meaning to read this but it’s been sitting on my shelf staring at me. I think I’ll save it now… Charli’s right. Honest reviews do help. It’s tough when people give everything 5 stars. It’s nice of them but really not helpful to readers. (And they lose credibility.) I have so many other books I really want to read so this one will sit for a little bit longer. Just finished Fault in Our Stars. Have you read it? What did you think?

    1. Yeah I can’t stand if people give everything 5* it’s so not realistic and it just removed the credibility of any review. Yeh I would say if you aren’t a huge YA fantasy fan save it for when you have spare time and don’t mind an average read. Ooh no not read the fault in our stars that’s the cancer girl? I have heard it’s fab it is sat on my kindle actually but not read it, will bump it up my list 🙂 thank you 😄 ive been pretty shit at reading recently owing mostly to writing a lot and being so knackered with my little one! I am trying though and hopefully read a lot more once my first draft is done 🙂

      1. I’ve been a super slow reader lately, too. I hate it. Fault in Our Stars is good. Well-written. His other books are supposed to be fantastic, too. Got both on my kindle. Though I might start the Grave Mercy trilogy by R.L. LaFevers next. I am in love with her writing.

        1. ooh, not heard of the mercy trilogy… I went and searched it on amazon…. OOOOOOOOOH I wanna read it! it sounds great 😀 I’m never going to get through them all!! lol are you a big YA fantasy fan then? all the hunger games / divergent type stuff? what other series have you read?

      2. Excuse me, but does a bear shit in the woods? 😀 Yes, I love YA (most of it) but am drawn toward fantasy/dystopian. Hunger Games, Divergent (including Four), Matched, Iron Fey… Julie Kagawa’s Immortal Rules is on the top of my TBR list. Also, I love MG like Ashton Place, Dragon Slippers, Dealing with Dragons, Theodosia, Percy Jackson, etc. And “children’s” books like Harry Potter (one of my favorite series). Oh my gosh, somebody stop me! We need to compare notes.

        1. pahahhaha! best start to a comment ever! did you like that Andrex tissue bear in the woods advert? I about wet myself when I got it! oooooooooooh I LOVE this type of book. I must confess I am still new to it though. So I haven’t read hunger games, but seen the films – tut, I know sorry! – read divergent – devoured it, HATED the bloody ending, so much so I couldn’t bring myself to read Four. Matched I’ve read the first book LOVED it. Got the second two books on my wish list to read, as well as series like: Immortal Rules, Delirium, Legend, Discovery of Witches, Slated trilogy, The testing trilogy. But thats a lot of books to read. Have you read Cinder by Marissa Meyer? or Angelfall by Susan ee? would recommend Angelfall, I am eagerly waiting the third one out in a couple of weeks…

        2. p.p.s and secret guilty pleasure, Twilight, and a better version I adored True Blood, devoured the ENTIRE series in about 5 weeks, and then got a third of the way through the last book, heard by chance the ending and was so disgusted I haven’t touched it since!

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