Author: Scott Westerfeld

Publication: 2005, Simon Pulse

Pages: 425

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Tally is about to turn 16 and she can’t wait, because on her 16th birthday the doctors will make her pretty.  She’ll finally be able to leave Uglyville and head to the party towers of New Pretty Town, where life is one long celebration as all the beautiful people play and have fun.  But before the big day arrives, her best friend, Shay, drops a bomb shell.  She doesn’t want to be pretty.  Shay runs away, headed for a mysterious community called The Smoke.  And when Tally goes in for her operation, she’s given a job instead – track down Shay and lead the authorities to The Smoke, or stay ugly forever.

Age of Main Character: 15 -16

What I Liked the Most: Westerfeld has created a fully realized world where a new civilization has taken root among the devastation left behind by the collapse of the Rusties (i.e. you and me).   And as Tally gets to know her friend, Shay, and explores the outer boundaries of the life she’s always known, we’re treated to some fascinating views of how life might collapse if we’re not careful, and to some fairly intense debates on the morality of a society where everyone looks essentially the same.   While Westerfeld hasn’t skimped on the action, romance, and intrigue, neither has he gone for a simplistic story of a tyrannical society.  There’s enough in here to really make you think.

What I Liked the Least: Midway through the story Tally learns something about the pretty operation that hits her like a revelation.  But Westerfeld has dropped a few too many hints earlier in the book, so instead of feeling Tally’s surprise I just wanted to hit her on the back of the head and say, ‘No Duh.’  Still, that was a minor point in an otherwise excellent story.

How Good was the Action?  This is not an action story.  There are action sequences scattered through it, and they’re very well done, but don’t go into this book expecting one long thrill ride.

Most of the action centers around hoverboards and aerial acrobatics.  The sequences rush along at an intense pace, really dumping you inside Tally’s head, allowing you to feel her adrenaline and fear as she nearly runs off a bridge, outflies hovercars, or spins through the air jumping fences and using a bungee jacket to take flying leaps from her board.  It’s cool stuff.

How Engaging was the Story?   Tally is a complex character, and I enjoyed following along on her inner journey as she changes from wanting nothing more than to be pretty to realizing that being pretty might be the worst choice she could ever make.  Tally makes some tough decisions, but she also makes thoughtless mistakes that come back to haunt her – forcing her to stop thinking only of herself and sacrifice her own desires for the people she cares about.  Her transformation was a pleasure to watch, and was only enhanced by the fact that so many of the characters around her are just as complex and fully realized as she is.

Overall Assessment:  A good, thought provoking read with a healthy dose of romance, action, and intrigue.

Profanity: None

Sex: A few kisses, but nothing more

Violence: Nothing serious.  A couple of people get hit on the back of the head, but the action here is more to do with escapes than fights.

Speak Your Mind