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.
I liked Pretties much better than Uglies for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because of the changes in Tally’s character. In Uglies, she lacked the ability to see the consequences of her actions and was pretty self-centred. Although she is a Pretty in this book, Tally matures very quickly once she realises the truth about the operation and makes some very difficult decisions which I admired her for. Her friendship with Shay finally begins to crack under the pressure of the events of the previous book, and it was nice to see Tally and Shay shaken out of their usual roles and grow into fuller characters. I also liked the introduction of Zane, I think he’s a great addition to the cast and compliments Tally well – he takes risks and has a lot of fun, but is a lot more mature and guides Tally through the book.
Pretties builds well on the foundations of Uglies and reveals more of Scott Westerfeld’s dystopian world, and for the first time we get to see life from the Other Side. As a Pretty Tally is sort of annoying and shallow, but it’s easy to see the lure of living such a simple life where everything is provided and your only job is to have fun. However, when the truth is revealed to her about the operation and she begins to see clearly again, the world is revealed to be false and full of dangers. The reappearance of the Special Circumstances people was expected in the book, but they still freak me out! Dr. Cable is, once again, flawless in her role of villain. One of the most significant developments in the world building is a certain discovery that Tally makes – which in hindsight makes a lot of sense but I wasn’t expecting it and it took me completely by surprise.
With Tally in the Pretty world, I found myself a little confused at the vocabulary used by the New Pretties – everything is either bubbly (good) or bogus (bad), and things are crazy-making, dizzy-making etc. It gets a little tiring to keep reading the new words and speaking style, but I think it brings home the alien nature of the Pretties very well. In her moments of lucidity Tally tends to revert to normal speech patterns, but continues using bubbly and bogus, which I believe highlights how even if she were to be cured, she would retain some of the characteristics she has picked up as a Pretty. I was amazed at the lengths the Pretties would go to feel bubbly once they realised it also gave them clarity. It seems that adrenaline has a large role to play, with kissing and facing (and surviving) dangerous situations contributing to the bubbly feeling, but once some characters started cutting themselves to feel the same I became concerned.
This is an increasingly compelling series that I recommend to all my readers – read one of the original dystopian worlds in modern YA and revel in the brilliance that Westerfeld serves up! I can’t wait to read the final volume of the trilogy, Specials, and am also looking forward to the stand alone companion novel, Extras.
About the book: