Backlist Review, Book Review

Backlist Review: “Uglies; Pretties; Specials; Extras”

This isn’t my first attempt at book blogging. I ran The Cheap Reader for a number of years before burning out. I’m dusting off some of my reviews and giving them new life over here.

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? 


Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. 

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

Summary from Goodreads

Review

I. Loved. This. Book. I don’t know why it took me so long to read this book.

The world Westerfeld sets up is interesting. Having everyone become beautiful so no one is above any one else is a good idea in theory. This levels the playing field and makes everything even. I, like Tally, was on board for this idea. Then it’s revealed that the surgery makes everyone look very similar to each other. That’s where it starts to get creepy.

I loved how only bits of information were revealed so the world is still very much a mystery. I still have so many questions. I hope the rest of the series answers the questions. I really liked how they poked fun at us. Even though it’s weird to think of us as outdated or archaic.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but I didn’t think the book was going to be so action-y. That was a very pleasant surprise. I guess I expected more science fiction and technology. Don’t get me wrong, there was enough of that in the book. I was just expecting more.

This book is a great blend of genres. It’s got science fiction but not too much. A nice sprinkling of romance but nothing to turn guys off of the book. A good bit of action and adventure to keep the story moving. Of course, teen drama because what YA book would be complete without it?

The underlying message was good but it was done in a way that wasn’t too over the top. It doesn’t beat you over the head with message until you’re black and blue (Yes I’m looking at you, Beauty Queens).

My only problem was the cliffhanger. Thankfully, most of the story was wrapped up but could they have picked a worse place to end?! I was left jaw open in shock at the ending and annoyed there wasn’t more.

Rating 4.5/5

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.

Summary from Goodreads

Review

I was warned when I started to read this that Pretties wasn’t as good as Uglies. I scoffed at the idea. Uglies was awesome, the sequel should be awesome too, right? After finishing the book, I completely understand what everyone was warning me about. Pretties was good but it definitely lacked something that Uglies had.

I’m really not a fan of romances. They always just seem forced in YA books. With that being said, I kind of liked whatever Tally and David had going in the first book. So when Pretties began I was annoyed at Tally’s behavior but I had to remind myself of the circumstances of the last book. I let it slide. Maybe it’s just me but the book’s romantic vibes were just weird. Tally’s relationship with Zane felt really rushed and then towards the end of the book, the love triangle was odd. I mean, I understand why it’s there but it was too cliche for my taste.

The overall story was okay. It reminded me a lot of Catching Fire in the sense that it was like “awww man, we have to do this again?”. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. The reader finds out more about the pretty world but I was kind of hoping for more.

I loved the twists and turns in the book. Some of what happened was a little predictable. Other revelations shocked me. It was a nice mix of events. I was fairly glued to my book which is always a good sign.

I enjoyed getting to see more of the pretty world. It was interesting to see it from an “insider’s” point of view. Maybe we’ll see more of it in future books? The lingo irks me though.

Once again, Westerfeld started annoying me with the social commentary stuff. Yes, we get that you don’t like how we currently are environmentally. We get that people today are too superficial. Blah, blah, blah. It’s annoying but not annoying enough to make me stop reading the series.

Rating 3.5/5

Enjoyable follow up.

“Special Circumstances”: The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.
 
And now, in the third book in the series, Tally’s been turned into a Special: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid. 

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more. 

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

Summary from Goodreads

Review

I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It irks me a bit that the second and third books in the series are “starting from scratch” so to speak. The previous books have all this action and suspense building up to the last pages. Then there’s a chunk time missing between the end of a book and the next one and Tally is a completely different person. I get that it’s really not her choice but I’d like to see what happened in that missing time period.

With each book in the series, Westerfeld seems to be opening the world up just a bit more. I am the type of person who wants to know everything right now but I appreciate him spreading it out into easier to digest nuggets of knowledge. This time around we learn that the world is bigger than Uglyville/Pretty Town. The fact that he kept this from the reader adds to the fear and horror when we realize that Dr. Cable and her people really are insane. It’s also a scary thought that other cities couldn’t step in thus letting crazy people do whatever they wanted to their citizens.

Perhaps it was intentional but Tally and Shay were wearing on my last nerves. Maybe it was just a combination of all the surgeries, generally teen girl cattiness, and spending too much  time around each other but all of their fighting and anger was just annoying. The “special” version of the two of them is by far my least favorite version of them.

The story was enjoyable enough. I appreciated that Westerfeld didn’t ‘wimp’ out on the story. Bad things happened, people had to die, basically the book wasn’t a fairy tale. Things never happen the way you want them to. The book was fairly action packed. It was reminiscent of the first two books but  unique enough to not be boring.

The ending was a bit…odd. I can’t believe that a tiny prick to Dr. Cable was all it took to make her “normal” again. I was just under the assumption she was just insane and did all these things to other people to make them like her. I didn’t like the last chapter too much. It just seems like Tally wants to be a pain the butt to someone all the time. She can’t just be normal.

Rating 3.5/5

It was an okay end to the trilogy. It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be.

Extras, the final book in the Uglies series, is set a couple of years after the “mind-rain,” a few earth-shattering months in which the whole world woke up. The cure has spread from city to city, and the pretty regime that kept humanity in a state of bubbleheadedness has ended. Boundless human creativity, new technologies, and old dangers have been unleashed upon the world. Culture is splintering, the cities becoming radically different from each other as each makes its own way into this strange and unpredictable future…

One of the features of the new world is that everyone has a “feed,” which is basically their own blog/myspace/tv channel. The ratings of your feed (combined with how much the city interface overhears people talking about you) determines your social status–so everyone knows at all times how famous they are.

Summary From Goodreads

Review

This book was a bit weird for me. One of the main reasons I enjoy reading series book is the familiarity. I like stepping into a familiar world and knowing what’s going on. I realize that Extras is more of a stand alone book rather than an addition to the Uglies trilogy because it certainly felt like it. The reader is thrown into a completely different world than we left Tally in 3 years ago. I just felt so confused and unsure of everything that was going on.

I’ll admit I had a really hard time getting into the story. I didn’t know these people! [I realize that’s completely stupid because I read other stand alone books and don’t feel this way.] Things got smoother once the story picked up and I found familiar faces.

Once I got past the initial shock/confusion, the story was pretty interesting. The author took a step away from the beating you over the head with his message that was abundant in the first three books. This book explores more of the interpersonal relations people have rather than the relationship they have with the Earth. As a result, they have a reputation economy so your literal worth is built into how ofter people are talking about you. Scary thought, huh?

Characters were okay. I wasn’t too wild about any of them. Even when Tally and gang showed up I didn’t like them. Then again I didn’t enjoy Tally too much in the other stories either.

The bottom line? Eh. It was okay. I don’t see a real need to read this if you’re happy with the way Specials ended.

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3 thoughts on “Backlist Review: “Uglies; Pretties; Specials; Extras””

  1. Great reviews! The premise of this series sounds really interesting and I’ve been tempted to pick up the first book a couple of times. Reading your reviews, I’m not sure that I’d like the direction the sequels take though, so I might just skip it (esp. since there’s a cliffhanger in book one)! Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts 🙂

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    1. You’d be pretty happy to read just book one. You might even be able to use it as a starting place before starting the new sequel series Impostors. [Haven’t read the new series yet but it supposedly ties into the Uglies world.]

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