Reading Response: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

This week our book club discussed Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld.

Uglies follows Tally as she is coming closer to her 16th birthday – the day she will get an operation to become a Pretty.  Two weeks before her birthday, she meets Shay, a girl who shares her birthday and does not share her excitement about the operation.  Shay runs away before her birthday, but Tally wants to stay and become Pretty.

However, the head, Dr. Cable, forces Tally to discover where Shay and the others are hiding.  Does Tally decide to betray her friend and break her promise not tell others about the Smoke?  Or, does she give up her chance to be Pretty and stay with the runaways in the Smoke?


I completed a Dailies log for my reading response to this book.  Most of my quotations fall along the theme of viewing our society through the lens of dystopia.  This was a major focus for our book club too!  What can we learn from reading dystopia?  How is our society mirrored in Uglies? How is our world better than the world of Uglies?  How is it worse?

Passage What I Think What My Book Club Thinks What I Think Now
“The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.” (1) This is amazing imagery. The author really helps me get a sense of his world with his word choice. Uglies is an excellent way to look into our world from a safe distance. The society of their world is one that takes a few of our negative aspects and magnifies them.   The most important thing in their world is their physical beauty, not intellect, or talent.
“But we’re best friends right?” He sighed, dabbing at a brown stain. “Sure, forever. In three months.” (20) The most important phrase in this section is “in three months”. Peris doesn’t seem as interested in Tally’s friendship now that he is Pretty. OR, did Tally/the author not really represent their friendship accurately in the beginning? It is like he does not have time for Tally until she turns pretty.
“Shay didn’t look, just shrugged. ‘That’s not me. It’s some committee’s idea of me.’ Tally smiled and hugged her. ‘It will be you, though. Really you. Soon.'” (45) I often feel like Shay – the world’s version of pretty isn’t mine. Like Shay, I want to be smart. It isn’t like I don’t want to be pretty. Rather, I just think other things are more important that how I look.
“We don’t have to look like everyone else, Tally, and act like everyone else. We’ve got a choice. We can grow up any way we want.” (89) I wish I had her sense of confidence as a 16 year old!
“Tally had never realized how much stuff she’d needed before.” (153) This is me EVERY TIME I pack to go somewhere!
“She wondered how much of being ugly was just an awkward age.” (189) EXACTLY! I wish that I had learned that lesson as a teenager. How can I teach that to students?
“My parents were runaways, not me.” (217) This makes sense. It seems that David doesn’t quite have the same understanding of the cities as Shay or Tally. Dystopian fiction gives us the chance to entertain a world with our worst selves in charge. It gives students an extreme world that allows them to reflect upon their own beliefs. It gives people an opportunity to say, “That’s OUTRAGEOUS!” and indirectly working to change these same things in our modern society.
“You’re all brainwashed into believing you’re ugly.” (276) This seems to mirror modern society. There is such an emphasis on physical beauty and “perfection”. Have we been brainwashed? Absolutely. The interactions between the Pretty Peris and Tally really show the differences in thinking between the Pretties and the Uglies.
“David lowered his voice. ‘Maybe they didn’t want you to realize that every civilization has its weakness. There’s always one thing we depend on. And if someone takes it away, all that’s life is some story in a history class.'” (346) HOW TRUE! What is our society’s weakness(es)? What silly/stupid thing is going to bring us down?

Why do we read dystopia?  Is the world in Uglies like our world?  Is it different?  Let’s talk below….

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4 thoughts on “Reading Response: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

  1. I loved Uglies so much when I read it in high school. I usually don’t like dystopian novels, but for some reason that series really clicked with me. I loved the commentary on beauty. How far will we go to become beautiful? Should we learn to accept ourselves instead. Great questions for young readers to ponder.

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    1. I really like the way people changed when they became pretty. I think it was a great way of thinking about how we change physically and mentally through our lives!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I actually really, really liked it. Dystopia can be hit or miss for me. I think I’ll end up reading the rest of the series. However, like you, it will have to be in summer….

      Liked by 1 person

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