Study Guide

Uglies

by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies Summary

Summary

Scott Westerfield’s Uglies is a young adult dystopian novel that pits conformity against individuality, security against freedom, and betrayal against loyalty. In Uglies, all sixteen-year-old children are required to have cosmetic surgery that will make them “pretty.” Tally Youngblood cannot wait to become pretty, but her life changes when she meets Shay, a girl who wants to remain “ugly.”

Tally lives in a dystopian future where everything is provided for by the city. In this post-scarcity society, everyone’s life is divided into five stages of physical change. Children are now known as “littlies” and are widely considered cute. Gangly and awkward, teenagers up to the age of sixteen are known as “uglies.” At age sixteen, uglies undergo cosmetic surgery that makes them pretty. There are three stages of life after people become pretty: new pretties, middle pretties, and late pretties.

Some people argue that the pretty world is a false paradise, one that robs people of their individuality. These dissenters go on to argue that the only reason people like Tally feel ugly is because they are pressured to feel that way. People are taught to feel ashamed of their looks so that they would never question getting cosmetic surgery to fit in. However, if everyone were an ugly, perhaps no one would be considered ugly.

However, the pretty society has perfectly good reasons for their laws. For one thing, the previous society, now known as the “Rusties,” is remembered as a wasteful culture, one that nearly destroyed the planet. Pretties live in isolation from nature so that they will not destroy it. Furthermore, the Rusties were often fighting with each other and often hated others simply because of skin color. Pretty life is simply much better for everyone and for the environment.

Furthermore, pretties argue that is a genetic fact that people are predisposed to be attracted to certain features, such as symmetry, large eyes, and full lips. Everyone bases their judgments on first impressions, not because they are bad but because they are designed to do so. After all, if a man or a woman looks attractive, healthy, and intelligent, it stands to reason that their kids would be too. Pretties simply look how people are genetically designed to look.

There are very few reasons to be upset in Westerfield’s dystopian city, but Tally is lonely and bored at the start of Uglies. All of Tally’s friends have become pretties and have moved on to New Pretty Town. Unfortunately for Tally, uglies are not allowed inside. However, Tally cannot stand the loneliness any longer and sneaks into New Pretty Town to see her best friend Peris. Nearly captured by the pretties, Tally eventually finds Peris, but he is different. For one thing, Peris is now gorgeous, but he is not very interested in Tally anymore. He is too busy having fun at the parties in New Pretty Town. He helps Tally escape and makes her promise to stay out of trouble so that they can be together after Tally is pretty. Making her way out of New Pretty Town, Tally meets Shay.

Shay and Tally are very alike. They are both alone, and they share the same birthday. They are both rebels who enjoy playing pranks, especially ones that seem dangerous. Tally teaches Shay all of her old tricks, and Shay teaches Tally how...

(The entire section is 1357 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear