Book Review: “Pretties” by Scott Westerfeld

Out of all the books in the series, this is the one I had the most awkward time reading. Not fully because of content but because of the cover. The copy of Pretties my friend lent me left me overwhelmingly uncomfortable. The cover of it shows a leg with plastic surgery markings and while South Korea is one of the biggest plastic surgery capitals in the world, reading the book at my school or on the bus felt like it drew attention. I was hyper aware of the cover and would try to twist and turn the book anyway I could to hide the cover.

This is a review for book 2 out of 3/4 in the Uglies series. Because this is a sequel there are some spoilers in reviewing it for Uglies book 1. And those spoilers will be immediate.

Pretties starts off with a feeling of concern. When Uglies ended it left off with Tally Youngblood sacrificing herself for her friends so she could, at a later date be experimented on. In Uglies she learned from the people in the Smoke that the operation she wanted so badly wouldn’t just make her pretty but they would also put lesions in her brain that would change her, making her “bubble-headed” and thus less likely to revolt or do things too difficult for the government to handle. Aka all pretties have some sort of damage to their brain that makes them docile. The leaders of the Smoke mentioned that it was possible to reverse it, but when people become Pretties they no longer are willing to have the lesions removed, so Tally signs a form saying some day in the future they can abduct her and to give her a letter to herself explaining what had happened and that her past self gives them permission to operate on her future self.

The language in the opening of Pretties immediately shows the difference. All of the slang is different, everything must always be “bubbly” or “bubbly-making” which is happy or good. It’s almost as if the people who’ve had the surgery need to constantly be fizzing like champagne and if it ever stops then something has gone very wrong. Lots of words, emotional or feeling words, also get “making” thrown onto the end. Like “nervous-making” or “dizzy-making”.  Also Tally has completely forgotten all of her adventures. She’s happy living in New Pretty Town with Shay and the two seem to have forgotten all of their fighting (mostly over a boy from the Smoke). They are more busy with trying to figure out what to wear for a party so they can join the right clique. Because Tally is new so they have to find the right group of friends. Her goal is to join the Crims, short for Criminal. Which is a group made of people who played a lot of tricks (aka got in trouble a lot) when they were Uglies. Since Tally had run-ins with Special Circumstances it makes her an ideal candidate. Other groups might all have similar on modification or Surge (You can change how you want to look at will, aka any type of surgery you want via Surge or surgeries) or past-times, like the Hot Airs who spend most of their time in hot air balloons.

While Tally is out enjoying the party and checking out the other cliques and their modifications she notices someone in the crowd and it’s so shocking it clears through the fog. And she starts to wake up. After the party and losing them but receiving a note, she ends up becoming closer to one of the guys in her new clique, Zane, who she thinks is cool, even while bubbly. He’s the leader of the Crims and together they become a team, trying to keep each other essentially sober and clear headed to solve the mystery of what’s going on.

They end up playing tricks and trying to find ways to not be noticed or treated suspiciously. Zane is already on a watch list for multiple reasons, one being that in order to stay clear headed he isn’t eating. But they find their relationship together keeps them clear headed and they eventually find the cure hidden away, however there are two pills that must be taken together and Tally finds it too “nervous-making” to take the two pills and talks Zane into taking one with her, saying she will only take it if he does. So they take the pills right when they’re found and get placed under house arrest.

The problem with having shared the pills is that while they’re working very hard to look outwardly like they’re bubbly, Zane starts having awful headaches but he doesn’t care and wants to leave, really bad. Tally and Zane try to think of a way to escape New Pretty Town and join the Smoke as well as free everyone else from their cloud of Bubbly. They start having the clique do more dizzy-making tricks that wakes people up and clears their heads. But Shay feels left out again (and remembers falling out with Tally and she’s furious that despite being Tally’s best friend she’s been set aside for a boy again) and figures out a different way to start becoming clear headed and creates an offshoot crew called the “cutters” and it’s as horrifying as it sounds.

If there is any moral to take away from the story, the biggest horror is always take medicine as directed. The other moral is probably one of my least favorite tropes that drives me nuts and it’s TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS. Tally had no reason NOT to talk to Shay for like 90% of the book and her only excuse was being busy trying to solve a mystery/being a new couple…but like…you can still talk to your friend and get her to help so that she doesn’t literally hate your guts and is out to get you by the end of the book.

I think while Uglies was a good introduction to the world and put out some interesting science fiction dystopian ideas and what if’s, I think Pretties was darker. There was more suspense and the looming darkness of the government and government officials was so much worse. Though I found the slang (even if it was used ironically while clear headed) was a bit annoying and Tally also was a bit annoying while “pretty-headed”.  It definitely got me super excited though to read the next book to find out what would happen next to poor Tally who just deserved a nice vacation left alone by the government and everyone else and for people to stop messing with her brain and manipulating her.

What’s a trope in you hate?

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