I'm Liz, and I'm a librarian (duh)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On Beauty

Wow, if only this book a month challenge was a few years ago--I could think of tons of great books having to do with beauty, but they were all books I'd already read! What a bummer. The very first book that came to mind was Scott Westerfeld's Uglies (or the sequel, Pretties), so I decided to read the 4th book in the trilogy (I know, it's not really a trilogy if there are more than three...): Extras. The premise for the series is that in the future (this is sci-fi) everyone gets this special surgery when they turn 16 that makes them beautiful--tall, good skin, even super-strong bones, you can choose your eye color, whatever. People even live in a special Prettytown once they get the surgery, so as not to mix with the pre-surge uglies. Everybody gets the surgery, so the playing field is level as far as looks are concerned. Unfortunately, as we find out, the surgery also makes people stupid--while everyone is having their outsides beautified, the doctor's also alter people's brains so they lose any kind of curiosity or inquisitiveness they may have had naturally. All the better for the government to manipulate them! That is, until Tally Youngblood and her friends expose the government's plot to keep everyone dumb and beautiful--what will ever after be known as "the mind-rain;" people still get the surgery, but without the mind-altering component. That's the first three books in a nutshell--when we begin Extras it's a few years later and Tally and her friends are revered for saving all humanity, studied in textbooks by schoolchildren the world over. The surgery is still rampant, but the entire economy is based not on looks anymore, or even money, but on fame and popularity. In the Prettytime (before the mind-rain) people were able to just ask for anything they wanted and get it, apparently without money, but now people have to earn what they want, either by doing community work or by simply being famous. How famous you are depends on how frequently people talk about you on their "feeds," sort of video gossip magazines people have wired into their brains (or their houses, etc.). Our heroine is Aya, a fifteen-year-old ugly waiting for her sixteenth birthday so she can become pretty, but even more anxious to become famous for kicking a big story. The whole city is ranked by how popular people are, and Aya's face rank is 451,396, which is to say she's what people refer to as an extra. I gotta tell ya, the plot is pretty convoluted and the message seems a little muddled (is it bad to want to be famous or not??), but Aya discovers a pretty big story, enlisting the help of her big-face (super-famous) older brother Hiro, his friend Ren and Aya's love interest, Frizz. Suffice it to say that this story is so big that none other than Tally Youngblood herself contacts Aya, and they all go off to try and save the city (and maybe the world) from what they perceive to be aliens who want to blow up the planet. Or maybe they don't. This is definitely a book that needs a little background, and I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who hasn't read the previous books. The first in the series, Uglies, is the best of the bunch, and it ends with enough of a cliffhanger that you need to keep going just to find out what happens to everyone!

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