Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
I’ve read this story before. Not this book, but this story. It was in a compilation of novelizations of old Twilight Zone episodes that I read more than 10 years ago in high school, and it’s the only story that I remember from the book. It was powerful to me then, and it still is now.
I broke my leg 11 years ago- the anniversary will be next week. I had to have surgery to pin it back together, and I remember one day after physio Mom mentioning that once it had healed a little more we could look into plastic surgery to get rid of the scars. At the time, they were large and red and puffy and ugly and my leg hurt. I didn’t say anything, but I remember just thinking, no. They were my scars; I earned them. I didn’t like them, I hadn’t wanted them, but they were the record of what had happened to me and I was instinctively repulsed by the idea of getting rid of that record.
This one was hands-down my favourite book of all the ones I read for this class. Not because I liked it, but because I connected with it. It’s all over the media- the idea that you can’t possibly be attractive unless you’re mostly plastic. Women in their early 20s getting Botox for wrinkles. Girls getting nose-jobs for a sweet sixteen present. Women who’ve had so much plastic surgery they look like caricatures of people. Notice how it’s always women? Men may get plastic surgery, but somehow it’s never news. At least in Uglies it’s both the men and the women who aren’t pretty enough until they’re Pretties. But even in the book, it’s Tally, a girl, who needs to learn how to accept herself as she is- David thinks he looks fine just the way he is and has no mentioned body image problems, and Peris is a peripheral character at best. Tally is the everygirl- she’s been told her whole life that she is ugly, and she believes it. I really liked that Westerfeld used current magazines to show Tally that people used to come in all different shapes and sizes, and how repelled she was at current stick-thin models. It points out the idea that standards of attractiveness are completely constructed, and the idea is later reinforced when Tally realizes that David is attractive to her, if not to her society.
The idea of everyone being surgically altered to look alike was disturbing to me even before the revelation about the brain lesions. It may not be law now, but it is culture, and culture has a habit of becoming law unless someone points out that just because it’s the custom doesn’t mean it’s right.
Now I think I need to find the rest of the series…