Westerfeld, Scott (2005). Uglies. Uglies Tetralogy. one (two ed.). New York: Simon Pulse. p. 406.
I believe the book is named Uglies because Tally is struggling with her status as an ugly: at the beginning, she wants to be pretty and is tired of being ugly; then, at the end, she wants to remain ugly, but has to give herself up to be made pretty. We start the book off with the regular, negative meaning of “ugly” but by the end of the book Uglies, we learn that being an ugly is not the worst thing to be.
Tally is the main character of the book. She’s adventurous, creative, and focused. All that she dreams of is to become a Pretty, and then reside on the island of Pretties that she has managed to sneak over to a few times. When she is an ugly, she has frizzy brown hair, a bigger nose, and grey eyes. When she is a pretty, she has red hair, large green eyes, and spinning tattoos. When she is a special she has dark hair, dark wolf eyes, sharp teeth, scars, and spinning tattoos.
Peris is a short-lived character in the novel, not being described much beyond the first few chapters. He is rude, selfish, and boring. He is older looking, handsome, with brown hair and eyes.
Shay is the rebellious sort, and she is the one that introduced Tally to the idea of running away. She’s smart, friendly, and strong. She’s ugly,
David is a young leader in the Smoke and has never seen a real city like from where Tally and Shay come from. David is strong and likable, with a body warped by nature. He doesn’t have an outgoing attitude but is liked by everyone in the Smoke for being an honest and true person.
Maddy and Az
Maddy and Az are the parents of David and are so similar that they are almost like the same character. Together they discovered that the city was putting a brain lesion in people when they got the surgery to become Pretty, making them dumber and less rebellious. Dr. Cable
It takes place in the future, about 300 years after some sort of disaster destroys the old civilization (24.60). It takes place partly in an unnamed city and partly in a small town in the wilderness called the Smoke.
Three hundred years in the future, the government provides for everything, including plastic surgery operations.
Everyone on their sixteenth birthday receives the “pretty” operation which transforms them into the society’s standard of beauty.
After the operation, new Pretties cross the river that divides the city and leads a new life with no responsibilities or obligations. There are two other operations available, one to transform Pretties into “Middle-Pretties” (adults with a job), and another to transform Middle-Pretties into “Crumblies”.
Former cities have decayed after bacteria infected the world’s petroleum, making it unstable. The old society, so dependent on oil, fell apart when cars and oil fields exploded and food could no longer be transported. People who lived before this catastrophe are called “Rusties.”
Tally Youngblood is almost sixteen. Like every other Ugly, she awaits the operation with great anticipation.
Her best friend, Peris, has already had the operation and, motivated by her desire to see him, Tally sneaks across the river to New Pretty Town.
There she meets Shay, another Ugly.
They become friends and Shay teaches Tally how to ride a hoverboard.
Shay also mentions rebelling against the operation.
At first, Tally ignores the idea but is forced to deal with it when Shay runs away a few days before their shared sixteenth birthday, leaving behind cryptic directions to her destination, a “renegade settlement” called the Smoke, where city runaways go to escape the operation.
On the day of Tally’s operation, she is taken to Special Circumstances, a division that is likened to “gremlins” and, “blamed when anything weird happens.”
Dr. Cable, a woman who is described as “a cruel pretty”, is the head of Special Circumstances.
She gives Tally an ultimatum to either help locate Shay and the Smoke, or never become a pretty.
Tally cooperates and Dr. Cable gives her a hoverboard and all the needed supplies to survive in the wild, along with a heart locket that contains a tracking device.
Once activated, it will show the location of the Smoke to Special Circumstances. Following Shay’s clues, Tally sets off to find her friend.
When Tally arrives at the Smoke, she finds Shay, her friend David and an entire community of runaway Uglies. She is reluctant to activate the pendant and it eventually becomes clear that David is in love with her.
David takes her to meet his parents, Maddy and Az, who are the original runaways from the city.
They explain how the operation does more than “cosmetic nipping and tucking.”
It also causes lesions in the brain to make the people placid, or “pretty-minded.” Horrified, Tally decides to keep the Smoke secret and throws the locket into a fire.
However, the flames’ heat causes the tracker to activate, giving away the Smoke’s location.
The following morning, Special Circumstances arrives at the camp and Tally makes an effort to escape.
She does not succeed and is caught and taken to a rabbit pen, where other caught Smokies are kept, tied up.
Eye scans are taken of all the captured Smokies, identifying from which city they fled. Tally is then taken to Dr. Cable, who explains how they found the Smoke. Dr. Cable thinks Tally purposefully activated the pendant.
After being ordered to retrieve the pendant, Tally escapes on a hoverboard.
After a long and stressful chase, she manages to hide in a cave where they cannot track her heat signature.
There she finds David also hiding and together, they begin to plan a rescue.
Tally and David go back to his house, where they find evidence that Special Circumstances took Maddy and Az.
David leads Tally to a secret stash of survival equipment where they find everything they need, and load them onto the four hoverboards stashed there.
As Tally and David travel back to the city to free their friends, they fall in love. Arriving at the Special Circumstances complex, they discover that Shay has already been “turned” and is now a Pretty.
After meeting Dr. Cable, David knocks her out and takes her work tablet, which contains all the necessary information to reverse the brain lesions created by the Pretty operation.
Tally and David then free all the Smokies held in the complex. As they escape the complex, Maddy tells David that his father, Az, is dead.
Once everyone is safe, Maddy begins working on a cure using Dr. Cable’s tablet.11 She then offers it to Shay, who refuses, not wanting to become a “vegetable.”
Since Tally feels responsible for her betrayal, she decides to become a Pretty and take the cure as a “willing subject”.
To convince David to let her go back to the city, she tells him about her involvement with Special Circumstances and searching for the Smoke to betray them.
While David is absorbing what Tally admitted, Maddy advises Tally to go back with Shay before she changes her mind.
Once there, Tally announces to a Middle Pretty, “I’m Tally Youngblood. Make me pretty,” the final phase of the novel.
Heart Shaped Pendant
The heart shaped pendant is a tracker that Dr. Cable gave Tally, and which Tally was supposed to activate as soon as she got to the Smoke. This pendant is not just a symbol of Tally’s treachery, but also a symbol of her internal struggle.
White Tiger Orchids
The white tiger orchids symbolize an excessive good that has turned evil because there is too much of it. These orchids are once considered the most beautiful flowers. But when it is over cultivated, it soon turned into a “monoculture” that took over all other forms of life. The orchids can be compared to the Pretties.
Hoverboards are a symbol of maturity, especially for Tally. The hoverboards are at first often compared to toys, balloons, or even pet dogs. However, when Tally finally learns how to use a hoverboard, she mentioned that she “had stopped thinking of it as a toy, like a littlie’s balloon.
The Rusty Ruins symbolizes the fragility of civilization. Such vigorous and large civilization with skyscrapers and bridges failed so easily when oil was infected due to it’s over-reliance on oil.
Scarred hands symbolize friendship, especially to Tally. The scar itself was created when Peris and she cut their palms and swore to be best friends forever.
Power of Appearance
It is demonstrated that prettiness and ugliness are both relative terms. When Tally was an ugly, she longed to have the surgery. However, when she learned that things are not the way they appear to be, she quickly coiled away. The ugly truth under all that prettiness is that undergoing the surgery would mean having brain lesions and part of her former identity erased; most Pretties are gorgeous but shallow, vain, and unintelligent. Furthermore, in Tally’s society, appearances are emphasized. As Uglies, they are even encouraged to nickname each other based on physical imperfections, such as “Squint” or “Skinny”. In a world with perfect faces, average faces would be considered ugly by comparison. But among Pretties, because there is no comparison, they are constantly unsatisfied and often change their looks on a weekly basis by surgery, such as having multicolored eyeballs. It thus implied that in a world where perfection is so easily attainable, people would still soon be unsatisfied and seek more.