Uglies: A Brief Overview of the Book

Uglies is a captivating young adult dystopian novel written by Scott Westerfeld. It is set in a future society where everyone undergoes a mandatory surgical procedure at age sixteen to become “pretty.” The story follows the journey of Tally Youngblood, a sixteen-year-old girl eagerly awaiting her turn to become beautiful. However, as she unravels the dark secrets of this so-called “perfect” society, Tally becomes torn between conformity and fighting for true freedom.

The Premise

In Uglies, the world is divided into different factions: the Uglies, the Pretties, and the Specials. Uglies are ordinary individuals who have not yet undergone the surgical transformation. Pretties are those who have gone through the procedure and now possess physical perfection. Specials are a more elite group, enhanced with advanced technologies and used to suppress any resistance.

As the story unfolds, Tally’s close friend, Shay, rebels against the idea of becoming pretty and flees to join a secret community known as the Smoke. Tally is then given an ultimatum by the city authorities – find and betray the Smoke, or remain an Ugly forever. Tally embarks on an adventure that challenges her beliefs and raises questions about the true meaning of beauty, freedom, and individuality.

Awards, Criticisms, and Praise

Uglies has received widespread acclaim from readers and critics alike since its publication in 2005. The thought-provoking themes and fast-paced narrative have contributed to its success in the young adult genre. The novel’s exploration of societal pressure, identity, and personal choice has resonated with many readers, leading to its inclusion in numerous “best of” lists and its recognition as a New York Times bestseller.

The book’s imaginative world-building has been widely praised, as it presents a believable future society with its own set of rules and customs. Westerfeld’s ability to create complex characters, particularly Tally and Shay, has drawn acclaim for their relatability and emotional growth throughout the story.

While Uglies has been predominantly well-received, some critics have raised concerns about the book’s focus on physical appearances, arguing that it perpetuates societal beauty standards. However, many readers interpret the novel’s narrative as a critique of such standards, highlighting the importance of inner beauty and individuality.

Important Characters

The characters in Uglies play pivotal roles in the development of the story, each contributing to the larger themes and conflicts.

Tally Youngblood

The protagonist of the story, Tally, starts off as an optimistic and naive teenager who eagerly awaits her upcoming surgery. However, as she progresses through her journey, Tally begins to question the values and expectations imposed by society.


Tally’s best friend, Shay, rebels against the conformity of becoming pretty and introduces Tally to the Smoke. Her actions and beliefs challenge Tally’s perspective and lead to a deeper understanding of the world they live in.


David is a member of the Smoke and provides Tally with an alternative perspective on beauty and societal norms. His relationship with Tally plays a significant role in her growth and decision-making throughout the book.

Dr. Cable

As a prominent figure in Tally’s world, Dr. Cable represents the authoritarian control exerted by the city’s authorities. Her intentions and true motivations become clearer as the story progresses, fueling the conflict in the novel.


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