If you could have a surgery to be outrageously beautiful would you do it? The people in the futuristic society in Uglies live to be pretty. Once you turn 16 you are operated on, become gorgeous, and go live in New Pretty Town where you party all day long. Sounds nice doesn't it? Tally Youngblood can't wait to turn pretty. After an unexpected journey, she learns there are severe consequences to becoming a pretty.
Not only is it a fun read, but there are so many interesting things in this book to think and talk about. Here are some of the questions that we discussed...
Book Club Questions:
1. Who was your favorite character and why?
- Most of the people in our book club liked David. We thought that he was a teenage girl's ideal man. He was not like the people in her society (which gave him an air of mystery), he wore a leather jacket (that he made himself), and he was strong. No one in our group voted for Tally as the favorite. Some of the members of our group really disliked her and felt she was a liar. Others thought she was just a flawed person who was forced to make difficult decisions.
2. Have you ever had a friend like Peris, who abandoned your friendship after they moved away? What makes one friendship stronger than another?
- Every member of our book club has had a friend that they are not close to anymore. It happens a lot. It was interesting that some people we meet when we are young we lose track of later, some we stay close to, some we don't see for a long time but when we do see them again we are still just as close as if we had never left. We decided that whether or not you stay close depends on the depth of things you talk about. Those who you can talk deeply with you have stronger ties to in the future. We also mentioned that it's easier to make and stay friends as a kid than as an adult. When you are an adult you have to go out of your way to work harder to maintain friendships.
3. At first, did you hope Tally would get the operation? When did you change your mind? (Or did you?)
- We all had differing opinions on this question. Many of us didn't want her to get the surgery and "lose her identity." Others wanted her to get it because she wanted it so badly. We all agreed that some of the things they do in the surgery sound really painful.
4. Have you ever felt discriminated against because of how you look? Have you ever found yourself trusting someone more or paying more attention to what they said not because they deserved it, but just because of their looks?
- We had a couple of interesting stories about being discriminated because of looks. My friend shared one where her mother grew up on Tonga. Her mother was the only white, skinny, blonde girl around and she was not considered pretty. When she moved back to America as a teenager she couldn't understand why she was suddenly getting attention. I shared a story about how I tried out for drill team in junior high. They told me that I could be a part of the team, but that I would have to dye my naturally red hair so that I wouldn't stand out. I said I wouldn't do that and so I was not allowed to join the team. Another book clubber talked about how she is small and blonde and people don't take her opinions seriously because she looks too young. One of the group told us that because she is short people would always say she was "so cute and little" and she hated it.
5. The futuristic society in Uglies places extreme importance on physical beauty. Do you think that our society places too much emphasis on physical beauty? In what ways do you think our society makes us feel we are ugly? What are some extremes that people go to in order to look "pretty"?
- We agreed that all societies place high value on physical beauty. We talked about how Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice was considered ugly because she had a tan and now having a tan is what everyone wants. We also mentioned China and how they used to bind feet to keep them small and how there are nursemaids who will nurse a child for a woman so that she can stay young and beautiful. Briefly, we talked about plastic surgery, Botox, and other operations of that nature.
6. If you had the chance to be made pretty, would you take it? What if everyone was being turned pretty--would you still want (or not want) to be made pretty? Would you give up your ability to think independently in exchange for being happy, beautiful, perpetually healthy, and rich?
- Our club decided that we wouldn't want certain aspects of the operation, but that having perfect vision, strong teeth, and healthy bodies would be nice. We talked about how some procedures are now the social norm - like having dental work done or laser eye surgery - but that these surgery's fix something. They aren't just for beauty itself. The intent behind the procedure is important. If you are doing it just for cosmetics or to make yourself prettier than someone else then it is selfish, but not necessarily bad. If you are fixing to help you feel more confident then we agree that it is a good thing.
7. Do you think it was significant that the operation took place when a girl or boy as 16 years old? When you were 16 do you think you would have gotten the operation?
- It was very interesting that they chose to do the surgery while the uglies are teenagers. Thinking back on our own lives, many of us would have chosen to have the surgery because we were self-conscious and being pretty was valued. Think back on high school. Those who were pretty were the ones who "ruled the school." Occasionally there would be those who weren't attractive, but had something else to make up for it (like ego, athletics, or money).
8. Other than the pretty operation, what are the main differences between the pretty society and our own? (Are there any ways in which the pretty society is healthier than ours?)
- In the book it mentioned that they didn't use oil anymore. That was a big difference. But, we all agreed that we would like some more details on how they society fixed the problem of oil. What did they use instead? We get hints that there are things like the street sweeper that run automatically, but other than that, our curiosity about how to make our world better remains unsatisfied.
- All of us agree the hoverboards are awesome and it would be nice to have a toothbrush pill. As mothers, it was mentioned that it would be nice to have a bridge that lets us know if our kids were leaving when they shouldn't be. Having food and clothes appear whenever you wanted would be sweet! We didn't really go much into the negative technologies.
10. If Shay could go back in time and never have met Tally, do you think she would?
- Not knowing how the next books are going to end, we decided that how things shape up for Shay aren't that great. Tally takes David away from her and she ends up getting the operation even though she didn't want it in the first place.
11. The Rusty civilization collapsed because of its dependence on oil. In what ways is your lifestyle dependent on oil and gasoline? How easily would you survive if it all disappeared one day?
- We spent a lot of time talking about this one. Some of us would do better than others. Some have more food storage and some know how to "rough it" better than others. We decided that if things like oil or electricity were to go there would have to be a massive re-educating. We would need to collaborate to learn many basic survival skills again. Most of us would live closer to family because it would take so much longer to communicate with each other.
During a lively discussion it is always fun to have a little something to snack on.
Tally eats SpagBol on her trip to the Smoke...
So we had SpagBol cupcakes. I found the recipe HERE.
We had some toothbrush pills as well.
In Uglies Tally and Shay create morphos of themselves. These are options of what they could look like when they are turned into a pretty. I found a fun little app that lets you take your picture and see what you would look like if your face was perfectly symmetrical.
Check out my results:
Here I am.
This is me with two left sides of my face.
Here I am with two right sides. Pretty crazy!
1. What do you think of the different ways that people live in the city vs. the way they live in the Smoke? Does your life seem more like the city-life (uglies going to school, pretties partying, older pretties doing jobs) or like the Smoke (everyone working)? What do you think of the different attitude toward stuff--with the city folk getting whatever they want and throwing it away easily, and the Smoke people fixing and trading their old stuff?
2. Before Tally and Shay go to the Smoke (and learn about the brain lesions), who do you agree with? Do you think the world would be better if everyone were pretty (like Tally argues)? Or do you think that this sort of surgery is dangerous to identity (like Shay argues)? Did you ever agree with both of them? Or neither?
3. What do you think it would be like to live in a society in which everyone gets to choose exactly how they look? Would most people choose to look different? Why or why not? What would you choose?
4. Other than the pretty operation, what are the main differences between the pretty society and our own? (Are there any ways in which the pretty society is healthier than ours?)
5. Dr. Cable says that the city lets uglies do tricks in order to develop their "creativity and independence"(13.53). Why would the city want the uglies to do that? Are there other reasons why the city would let the uglies do tricks? Tally later says that tricks are "a way for uglies to blow off steam until they reached sixteen, nothing but a meaningless distraction" (42.14). Is this alternate explanation surprising? Who do you think is right, Dr. Cable or Tally? If you were running the city, would you let the uglies do tricks?
6. How did you feel about the language that the characters used, especially the slang that gets tossed around? Was there ever a moment where you had trouble understanding the slang? What about the terms "littlie,""ugly,""pretty"—did they ever confuse you? How did you figure out what they meant? What about Shay's use of strange (to Tally) terms like "Barbie," terms that we know?
7. To what extent did Tally decide her own fate, and how much did other people decide it for her? Tally is faced with a difficult decision: betray her close friend or stay "ugly" forever. What would you do in Tally’s situation? Imagine that you grew up in the same society. How hard would it be to leave and never have the operation?
8. Let's ignore the existing sequel for a moment—if you were to write a sequel, what would you write? What should happen to Tally after she turns herself in? Is there anything about the end of this book that you would want to change if you were writing it? And, if you knew about the sequels, did that change the way you read this first book? What do you think will happen in this next book? Will Tally stay pretty? Will she resist the pills that Maddy has created or be swayed by her own written submission to the experimental drugs?
Did you like the book? Why or why not?
Sources for the book club questions: