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Uglies

Simon & Schuster 2011. 406 pages
First published: 2005
Series: Uglies
ISBN: 9781442419810 (paperback)
9781416934509 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Dystopian

Text Elements:

characterization, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

In Tally’s world, everyone has major surgery when they turn 16, transforming them from “ugly” to “pretty.” Tally’s friend Shay runs away to find the Smoke, a secret community where uglies live freely, off the grid. When Tally turns 16, she is told that if she wants to turn pretty, she must find the Smokies and turn them in. She discovers a community of authentic people living off the land and finds herself both a willing member and a reluctant spy.

The fast-paced story contains deeper reflections on human society. “You weren’t born expecting that kind of beauty in everyone,” Shay explains to Tally. “You just got programmed into thinking that anything else was ugly.” There are references to our civilization, the ancient, insane and oil-dependent “Rusties” named after the metal waste left in our wake.

When Tally starts to have feelings for a Smokie named David, her spy status becomes increasingly unbearable. When she learns that the surgery also affects the brain, she is determined stay in the Smoke. She burns her geolocation pendant, unwittingly triggering an alarm. Tally must rescue the captured Smokies and come clean about her role in the decimation of their community.

Uglies is a creative and fascinating look at population control and beauty standards. The Rusty references are a chilling reminder of our current self-destructive patterns and potential demise. But at the heart of the story lie the timeless themes of love, loyalty and truth.

  •  

    Dystopias comment on aspects of modern life and act as cautionary tales. Readers should aim to make connections between the worlds of the text and the modern world of today.

  •  

    “Is it not good to make society full of beautiful people?” asks Yang Yuan. Discuss how this quote might relate to the story and why the author chose to include it in the first chapter.

  •  

    Explore this genre through a study of dystopian fiction written for young adults. Create a guiding question to frame the study. Explore the settings, characters, sources of conflict, connections to our world, messages and other elements. Create a class list of elements of dystopias for young people.

  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development