Synopsis: 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 gob 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.
I got these two years ago and failed to pick them up until recently. And boy am I glad I did. Tally's world is so strange and different from the world we know today. It's based in the future, referring to us right now as Rusties. They have built off of our mistakes and created a utopia when you are a littlie, an ugly, a pretty, a middle pretty and finally, a late pretty, or crumbly. And Tally knows she wants to be a pretty. Her best friend Peris already is a pretty, and Tally is lonely and dying for her sixteenth birthday. When she meets Shay, who's friends have either become a pretty or run away. Shay opens a different side of being ugly, like long nights hoverboarding and better pranks. But the day before they're combined birthday, Shay informs Tally that she's leaving, going to the Smoke: a town outside of their city where you don't have to have an operation at sixteen. Tally's really nervous and tries to talk Shay out of it, but it's useless. Shay leaves, giving Tally vague instructions on how to get to the Smoke, if she ever wants to.
On the day of Tally's birthday, she's sent to Special Circumstances where the pretties are scary-looking and want Tally to give up Shay. But Tally doesn't know where Shay is and refuses to give anything up, saying she promised Shay that she would never tell. They give her a choice: help turn Shay and the Smoke in, or never turn pretty. After four days of thinking, and Peris and her parents chatting, Tally decides that it's best if she finds Shay and turn pretty with her. She agrees and sets off to find Shay. She leaves with only Shay's note and survival gear.
It takes a week to find Shay and the Smoke and she learns why they choose to be there and not in the city. She learns ugly secrets about becoming pretty, and she decides not to help the Specials and to instead stay in the Smoke with Shay and her friends. But the Specials drop by, anyway, and Tally is forced into hiding with David, the leader of the Smoke. Together, they return to the city and help break their friends out of Special prison. And then there's a dark, spoiler twist that I'm not going to tell you.
Overall, I loved Uglies and am almost finished with Pretties, the next installment of the trilogy. Westerfeld really knew how to build a not-so-perfect utopia and I was shocked at everything they said about us Rusties. Tally is a believable character who knows nothing except what the schools teach her. She feels she needs to turn pretty to go on with life but Shay and David (the Smoke leader, as I mentioned) help break her out of her society's mold and she becomes a very rebellious ugly. I liked Shay at the beginning of the novel, but I grew to dislike her by the end. Westerfeld makes the side characters a large part of the novels but they're not dwelt upon throughout the books. The ending was surprising to me and I can't wait to finish Pretties and go on to read Specials, the last in the trilogy.