Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is a dystopian novel for young adults.
My oldest daughter read the entire series (4 books) in about a month. For me, getting through this first book was a real struggle. I have no intention of reading the rest of the series.
Synopsis (contains spoilers): The premise is a dystopian society where judgment based on appearance is gone. Everyone is born “equal” because everyone is born “ugly.” At the age of 16, everyone undergoes a massive full-body surgery to make them “pretty.” When one is “pretty,” they move to a new city and spend their lives partying and hanging out with other “pretties.” The main character wants to be pretty. She meets a friend who does not and therefore, runs away to a secret city where people remain “ugly.” The government tells the main character she will never be “pretty” unless she finds the secret “ugly” city and reveals their location.
Once in secret city, the reader learns the plot twist: the “pretty” surgery includes lesions to the brain. These lesions make “pretties” lose critical thought.
Parental Review: The problem for me was the characters didn’t seem to have any critical thought as “ugly.” I wasn’t sure what they would be losing with the lesions once “pretty.” Most of the book is being disgusted with the “uglies” and talking about being “pretty.” The twist hit flat for me. I couldn’t care that they would lose their thought process. No one seemed to have any! Reading this book included a lot of passages similar to:
They are so ugly. I can’t even look.
They look so old and ugly.
I hate my face.
I can’t wait until my face is symmetrical.
I can’t wait until I have big eyes.
I can’t wait until my lips are full.
All I want to be is pretty!
Discussion with child: The main problem I have with this book is it covers some serious topics for teens, especially in regards to the body. The first book includes hating the body, underage drinking, anorexia, and massive amounts of cosmetic surgery. My daughter tells me the later books add: teens cutting their bodies and teen cohabitation.
I don’t think the author addressed these sensitive topics very responsibly. For example, the main character hating her body is the central theme of the book. Cosmetic surgery was required. Underage drinking and anorexia were not positive or negative, just a part of life. Approached as:
Shay is acting weird today because she is drunk.
The girl in the image must have quit eating since she is so skinny.
No one seemed to have any respect for their bodies. Everyone in the book only had respect for the environment, which was also a repetitive theme in this book.
We need to emphasize how critical our bodies are in God’s design. In our society, I see this trend to separate the body from the “self” or “person.” The body becomes something material that we own or manage. We hear these types of arguments a lot for issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and non-binary gender.
I used to view death as being rid of my body, and my spirit being with God. To me, death was purely spiritual, and the body dies. If this were true, then our bodies are solely material, and we can hold them in the same regard as other material objects we own. If this is true, the arguments for abortion, euthanasia, and non-binary genders have merit. If this was true, then the way the teens of this book treated and viewed their bodies would be fine.
This is not true.
We are created, and thus our purpose is not for ourselves. We were made for God. Therefore, we need to work within God’s creation, which is nature. The point is that death is not a separation of our souls from our bodies. The Creed proclaims this: I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting! Our bodies are with us for eternity; thus, it is vital to treat them as holy and good. Chapter one of Genesis tells us seven times that God’s creation is “good”!
Creation is the union of body and soul, which is, “so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body . . . spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature” (CCC 365).
Saint John Paul II wrote about the connection between the body and spirituality, “only the body is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden for eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it” (Theology of the Body 19:4).
Thus, we experience God via our bodies. Consider the seven sacraments:
- Baptism: water and oil on body
- Confirmation: oil on body and laying of hands
- Confession: speaking via lips
- Eucharist: eating and drinking
- Holy Orders: oil on body and laying of hands
- Anointing of Sick: oil on body
- Marriage: sex
Since our flesh is vital to experiencing God, we need to see the beauty in creation as it is our connection to God. We need to take care of our bodies in regards to how we nourish them, how we maintain them, and how we choose to activate the senses for pleasure.
Catholics stress the importance of the body, because “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” (CCC 1015). Our salvation is based solely on Jesus’ body. His incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus still has His body!