09 April 2011
uglies pretties and specials by scott westerfeld
uglies starts off in an interesting post-apocalyptic setting. the explanation of the "past" is a bit self-consciously simplistic, more suited to an elementary audience than a teen one. the story line is fairly fast-paced, although several parts are easily guessed ahead of time. as i said in the review for the grimm legacy, one of the main plot devices is poor communication. that really gets old by the end of the book. normal adolescent problems of coming of age, thinking for oneself, understanding and rebelling against authority provide more conflict and tension, which mostly overcomes the poor communication issue. uglies was still an engaging, fast read overall.
the follow up to uglies seems a bit more mature, although there's some rinse and repeat with a very similar story line. everything was laid on thicker than the first book - the main character feels responsible to save EVERYBODY she comes in contact with. the main character is innovative and brave, but keeps getting her mind physically rewired and i've started to feel some sympathy for her -i suspect she will never be normal and happy. despite basing conflicts on civilization vs. nature, scott westerfeld doesn't really know what to do with his pretties outside the city. the ending was disappointing, and very reminiscent of hollywood's inability to deal with a happy couple. i suppose pretties was still fast and engaging. my disgust didn't surface strongly until the last page. there's only one book left in the trilogy - i will probably read it, but i won't like it :)
specials (warning: minor spoiler)
by the end of this book, all the underlying themes were impossible to explain away as accidental. there's a strong female character, manipulated by everyone, and guilt ridden. she feels responsible for other people's choices - her best friend accuses her of thinking she's the center of universe. and she must, because everything is her fault. some things are, most are not, as other people chose how to act and react on their own. there is some maturing over the 3 books yet the ending is still characterized by crappy communication. it ends with a sort of 'let's not talk to the people about how they're changing and positive choices they could make, let's go hide in the woods and attack them if they do something i don't like' scene. all i could think was oh, brother. that sure is the way to change the world.
i doubt that i will reread any of these books. i read more to see what quirks would pop up in the futuristic setting than because i cared about the characters. unfortunately, most of the devices used by the author to keep the story going were very irritating, but i suppose it could get a good discussion going on how not to solve problems. the trilogy was at least interesting when it couldn't be excellent.