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Uglies Books In Order

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Publication Order of Uglies Books

Publication Order of Uglies Graphic Novels

Publication Order of Uglies Non-Fiction Books

Over the years, Scott Westerfeld has more than made a name for himself in the genre of Young Adult (YA) novels, most recently with the Leviathan trilogy, which is essentially a steampunk retelling of World War I—complete with piloting large walking machines and living airships!

Perhaps most famous of all of his series, however, is also one of his oldest and, perhaps, the most fiercely dystopian: The Uglies series.


The first novel in The Uglies series shares this title and was originally published back in 2005. Here we are introduced to the protagonist: Tally, a 15-year-old girl anxiously awaiting her sixteenth birthday. On first glance this doesn’t seem all that strange—what girl doesn’t anxiously await her sixteenth birthday? However, then Westerfeld shows us the details of the setting of the dystopia Tally lives in.

In this version of reality, there is a new society of independently run city-states scattered helter-skelter across the seven continents. The one that Tally lives in is located somewhere in what used to be southern California. These city-states were established after 98% of the human population was killed by a bacteria epidemic. The new society holds dearly to three values—Sustainability, Peace, and Equality—and to maintain these values the surviving humans incorporate a mandatory surgery called The Surge.

The Surge is a medical procedure performed on every person when they reach the age of sixteen. Before that, while they are between the ages of 12 and 16, they live in monitored dorms, away from home and without any physical contact with their families. Also during this time they are required to attend middle school and high school as well as being blatantly referred to by all—by each other, their families, and even themselves—as “Uglies”, because of the many physical alterations that occur during puberty. Students are even encouraged to stop calling each other by their names and to instead assign nicknames to each other, such as “Fatty”, “Zits”, “Squint”, etc.

Once children go through The Surge, they are free to enter the inner section of the city, “New Pretty Town”, where everyone is beautiful and the government provides free food, shelter, and entertainment for all (thus fulfilling the values of Peace and Equality).


Tally has mere weeks until she will be eligible for The Surge, and she couldn’t be more excited—until her best friend, Shay, says that she doesn’t want to be pretty, that she’d rather take her chances on living outside the city-states. Such talk makes Tally uncomfortable, but Shay is her closest friend.

When Shay goes missing, the government orders Tally to go after her and bring her back so that she can be punished for her disobedience. Additionally—as if that weren’t hard enough of a decision—if Tally refuses to do so, the government tells her that she’ll be denied the privilege of the The Surge and she’ll never be pretty.

Along Tally’s journey the reader is introduced to a large cast of characters. Among these are David, the leader of those living outside of Tally’s city-state; Maddy and Az, David’s parents; Croy, one of Shay’s friends who doesn’t trust Tally; Peris, Tally’s childhood friend who is older than her and has already gone through The Surge; and many others.

The full synopsis of the story is covered in three books: Uglies, Pretties, and Specials. There is a fourth book, called Extras, but it takes place several years after the events in Specials and is led by a new protagonist, Asa Fuse. Therefore, Extras is generally considered to be separate from the trilogy proper, but is still thought to be a must read for those who enjoy The Uglies series.

It has been announced that a movie is currently in production (also titled Uglies), although the details of it are currently unclear, such as the cast and when the movie will be finished or released.


Somewhat surprisingly, The Uglies series has found a fanbase with both younger and older audiences.

Teens and older adolescents (meaning those from 12 years old through early 20s) find connection with the innate urge to fit in and feel pretty, an urge to define ourselves by how others see us. We have all, at some point in our lives, felt that urge. You are, arguably, most vulnerable during puberty—a time when you have reached an age to be, for the first time, incredibly self-aware and aware of how others see you, how they react to you, as well as going through all those physical changes. Puberty is, undoubtedly, one of the largest and most forceful transitions in any person’s life. Many agree that Westerfeld captures this transition, and all the anxieties that come with it, quite masterfully.

Older readers (meaning those from their late 20s on) can also identify with and enjoy The Uglies series. Although the story is told in a style of language common in YA novels (in other words, more casual/conversational, and nowhere near the more complex and/or stiff styles of adult novels and classics), the story itself is reminiscent of many dystopian novels—from Fahrenheit 451 to Brave New World to Ready, Player One. Dystopian novels are some of the cleverest ways of commenting on our current culture and society. Oftentimes, one of the purposes for writing or reading a dystopian novel is to warn and remind ourselves of some of the more negative aspects of our society and where, if we’re not careful, those aspects could take us.

Older audiences can also identify with The Uglies because of its similarity in some ways to a few episodes of The Twilight Zone—“Eye of the Beholder” in particular.

For those unfamiliar with The Twilight Zone, “Eye of the Beholder” is an episode that takes place in a future society where some people need to undergo surgery to become beautiful (sound familiar? Many have speculated that Westerfeld may have received some inspiration from this episode). The episode opens with one woman who this surgery has, so far, failed for her and this is the doctor’s final attempt—if this one fails as well then she will be forced to live in a separate civilization with “her own kind”. Quite cleverly, the faces of all the characters are hidden from the audience, whether with shadows or, in the woman’s case, bandages.

The climax of the episode comes when it is time for the doctor to remove the woman’s bandages. Here it is revealed that the woman is actually quite beautiful—by our standards—but the doctor and nurses gasp as if she were repulsive. Finally the audience is shown the faces of the others—and they all have pig-like snouts for noses and horribly wrinkly faces!

At the end of the episode, the closing narration is: “Now the questions that come to mind: “Where is this place and when is it?” “What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty, the deviation from that norm?” You want an answer? The answer is it doesn’t make any difference, because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life.”

Just as Fahrenheit 451 reminds us of the power to read and the importance of the right to express ourselves, The Uglies series reminds us to see the beauty beyond physical beauty, and not to wallow too much in the appeal and glamour of physical beauty.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Uglies

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