Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

I would never have read Uglies if not for John Scalzi. On May 2 he blogged about YA SFF books in a post titled “Why YA” in which he states:
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: The most significant SF writer right now is Scott Westerfeld, whom it seems most adult science fiction fans still have not read and indeed barely know exists.
The argument is pretty much that Westerfeld is the flag-bearer for SF in the YA market and that Westerfeld is damn good and deserves far more recognition from the adult market than he currently gets. Shoot, I had only heard of Westerfeld as the YA writing husband of Justine Larbalestier, and I had only heard of her because Scalzi mentions from time to time which prompted me to read her Magic and Madness novel.

Westerfeld is the real deal.

With Uglies Westerfeld has opened a series where Extreme Beauty is the Norm, and children under 16 are considered Uglies until they grow up enough to undergo a surgery to make them Pretty, where they can live out the rest of their lives without a care in a world where the only value is being Pretty. It’s an odd, but compelling setting. Tally Youngblood is to turn Pretty soon and cannot wait, but when she meets a new friend who would rather remain Ugly her world begins to turn upside down as she is forced to question everything she thought she wanted and why she wanted it.

In a very technical sense Uglies is a YA novel. It is written with a teenaged protagonist and is aimed directly at teenaged (Young Adult) readers. And yet, what marks the best YA is that the books are accessible to readers of all ages and work on different levels for readers of all ages. When an adult can read a YA novel and enjoy it just as much (though in a different way) as a teenager / child, that’s a book that crosses boundaries and deserves to be recognized as just a Good Book.

Uglies is a Good Book. Period.

I’ll be reading the rest of this series as well as looking for Peeps and his Midnighters books. All it takes is one good book and I’m hooked.


Unknown said...

It's interesting to hear you make an argument for Uglies as an adult novel. It's very popular with the girls at the middle school where I teach, has been for the last two or three years. But the boys won't go near it. I've yet to see a boy read the book.

I agree that it is a good read, period, as you say.

Anonymous said...

I bought this series for my wife as I've heard a lot of good things about it and thought she would like it. Scott Westerfeld is an author I've been wanting to read for awhile. If my wife gives it the thumbs up I'll be reading this series even though I don't normally read YA books. Your comments have also encouraged me to give it a try.

Joe said...

CB: Don't get me wrong, the target audience is teenage girls, but Uglies definitely does work for adults, too.

aVoW: Give it a shot. :)

Anonymous said...

Westerfeld actually started as an "adult" hard sci-fi novelist with his very good "The Risen Empire" and "The Killing of Worlds" books (it's a duology but I believe it was intended to be one book). They're definitely worth reading too.

RobB said...

I read Peeps a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I thought it was one of the more inventive, clever and downright entertaining takes on the Vampire story I came across.