Pretties, the second novel in Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series, is a dystopian science fiction novel written for young adults and was first published in 2005. In the world that Westerfield envisions, everyone can be made stunningly beautiful, or “pretty,” through cosmetic surgery. In fact, everyone is required by law to undergo the procedure. However, Westerfield discusses how universal physical beauty fails to create a utopian society by highlighting the danger conformity poses to personal freedom and to human dignity. Critics and audiences alike have responded enthusiastically to Pretties, praising its provocative premise and its exciting plot.
Tally Youngblood, the heroine of Pretties, has just been made pretty and is enjoying her new life of parties, gossip, and “bubbly” relationships. Since her surgery, Tally has forgotten a lot from her previous life, including her connections to New Smoke, an alternative society that objects to the universal cosmetic surgery of pretty society. These dissidents have further discovered that the surgery causes brain lesions that impair independent thought. Although they are able to smuggle a cure to Tally, one that restores her memory and individuality, Tally finds herself wondering whether she wants to return to life in New Smoke or whether she prefers to continue her innocent life of pleasure and beauty.
Pretties is the second of four novels in which Westerfield explores the desire to conform to society’s standards of beauty. Although the novel has not won awards, the series as a whole won Westerfield a large audience and the respect of both the young adult and educational communities. While Uglies, the previous novel in the series, introduced the world of the pretties and its political conflicts, Westerfield uses Pretties to explore the personal costs and benefits of nonconformity. Ugliness, scarcity, and suffering are all a part of life in New Smoke, and while it may be easy to say that these are the costs of individuality and freedom, would people actually choose to endure these hardships? Westerfield’s attempt to address pain and difficulty makes Pretties a thoughtful dystopian novel aimed at adolescents rather than a genre exercise marketed to young adults.