Half World by Hiromi Goto

“WANTED: For having appallingly become with child and risking the Half Lives of all citizens of Half World.  Fumiko and Shinobu Tamaki are considered pregnant and extremely dangerous.  Last seen seeking passage into the Realm of Flesh.  They must be caught and the pregnancy must be terminated.  Under no circumstances must a child be born in the Half World.

All sightings are to be reported to Mr. Glueskin at the Mirages Hotel. Creatures found harbouring the fugitives will be treated with perpetual cruelty, psychological, emotional, and physical.”

The three ancient realms have been thrown out of balance, dooming those in the nightmarish Half World to a life of perpetual suffering under the chilling reign of Mr. Glueskin, with no possibility of moving from the Realm of the Flesh to that of the Spirit.  Also lacking hope of ever moving into the Spirit Realm, those in the earthly Realm of the Flesh become destructive and violent.   It has continued in this way for millennia.

Everyone is waiting for a baby, the baby that will save them all.

When Melanie’s mother disappears, Melanie learns of the prophecy, and understands that she is that baby.  She and her mother were granted passage from the Half World into that of the Flesh, but only for fourteen years.  After that time, her mother had to return, or else risk the torturous death of Melanie’s father, who had to stay behind.  Melanie must venture into the horrors of the Half World, find her family, and restore balance to the Realms.

This innovative fantasy enthralled me; I finished the book in five hours.  While the plot appears formulaic at first glance, I promise you, it’s the good kind of formula: the one that brought us Lord of the Rings and The Odyssey.  Furthermore, the mythic base is embellished with a cast of unforgettably ghoulish horrors that feel as though they’ve been transplanted from a Bosch painting.  Seriously, Mr. Glueskin is a literary monster rivaling the Crooked Man, and the nightmarish tableau of the Half Realm is truly a horrible place.  This ALA Best Book also won the Canadian Sunburst Award for Literature of the Fantastic, and both awards are richly deserved.  This is a great starter book for readers who would like to explore more fantasy books, but are put off by the elaborate backstories that sometimes characterize the genre.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.hiromigoto.com/

Half World website (it’s pretty!): http://www.halfworld.ca

Goto, Hiromi.  Half World. Illus. Jillian Tamaki. Puffin: Toronto, 2009. 230 pp. Ages 14 and up.

Read this one first before you decide to read it out loud, ok?  It’s a perfect story for sharing, but the monsters are quite dreadful, and not for the faint-hearted.

If you liked this book, you might want to explore Neil Gaiman.  His book Neverwhere is a great place to start! Other read-alikes are Malinda Lo’s Huntress and Rick Riordan’s Lightning ThiefIf you loved the beautiful illustrations, you should check out the graphic novel Skim, also the work of artist Jillian Tamaki.

 

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The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

“I was born into all that, all that mess, the over-crowded swamp and the over-crowded semetary and the not-crowded-enough town, so I don’t remember nothing, don’t remember a world without Noise.  My pa died of sickness before I was born and then my ma died, of course, no surprises there.  Ben and Cillian took me in, raised me.  Ben says my ma was the last of the women but everyone says that about everyone’s ma.  Ben may not be lying, he believes it’s true, but who knows?”

Todd is the youngest male in the settlement of Prentisstown, a town with no women left and ravaged by a disease called Noise.  Not only does Noise broadcast everyone’s thoughts out loud, it also caused all the women to sicken and die.  Todd was taught that Noise was caused by a germ carried by native inhabitants of the New World, a race called the Spackle.  However, right before his birthday, his adoptive parents hand him a notebook written years before by his mother-a notebook that tells an entirely different story about Noise and warns against the sinister preachings of Mayor Prentiss.

The problem with Noise, of course, is that no one has any secrets.  As soon as he sees the notebook, Todd must strike out through the swamps and across the countryside, in the hopes that he will be able to outrun the other men of the town.  He knows they will come after him as soon as they hear his Noise and know he is trying to escape.  During his flight, he meets a young woman named Viola, whose parents’ ship had crashed in the swamp.  Viola had been trying to survive on her own in the hostile environment.  Todd is fascinated (he has never seen a girl before!), but also terrified that he might infect her with the Noise germ.  Companionship wins, and the two proceed across the New World, trying to reach the town of Haven that Todd’s mother mentioned in her notebook.  They are in a desperate scramble to outrun the militia of Prentisstown men, who are convinced that Todd, as the last male in the village, is a vital part of their salvation plan.  When Todd learns the truth about Noise, what happened to the women, and what the men of Prentisstown expect him to do, he will face an ethical dilemma that nothing could have prepared him for.

This is a fast-paced, post-apocalyptic story that reads like a cross between Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and M. T. Anderson’s Feed.  The book explores colonization, racism, religious extremism, and the idea that just knowing about something ethically wrong, but not acting to right it, makes one complicit in the crime.  Does that sound too philosophical?  Don’t worry-I promise you won’t want to put this book down.  Not only is it a compelling story,  it is also a graphically interesting book.  The Noise of different villagers is depicted with distinct fonts, and the spelling of Todd’s words and thoughts is quite phonetic, rather than conventional.  Plus, if you really loved it, there are already two more out in the series, which is called Chaos Walking. The second installment is The Ask and the Answer and the final book is Monsters of Men.

This book was short-listed for the Carnegie award and was also recognized by Booklist, among others.  I found it a nice change from the technology-heavy dystopian novels out there, and loved the creative presentation of the Noise.  I hope you like it!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.patrickness.com

Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go. Candlewick Press: Somerville, MA, 2008. 479 pp. Ages 14 and up.

If you liked the conspiracy theory part of this book, you would probably like M. T. Anderson’s Feed.  For a suspenseful futuristic escape story that also explores issues of racism and colonialism, try Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion. It’s amazing!

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Image

“I’m Lady Jain Solander, Countess of Carabas. I’ve journeyed many months, hoping to gain sanctuary at the legendary Castle Waiting.”

This is Sleeping Beauty like you’ve never heard it before. The king and queen are just, generous rulers, but have no child.  When the long-awaited baby is welcomed into the world, a vengeful witch places her under the familiar curse.  Thus begins the story of Brambly Hedge.  However, it is what happens after the curse that makes this graphic novel special.

After the princess is awakened, and runs off with the prince, we get another “Once upon a time”.  This section of the story involves a convent of bearded nuns, mischievous imps, a castle that stands as a refuge for all that might require it, a despot ruling over the local mill, and a lot of gumption on the part of the characters.  Oh, yeah-and a library and a whole barnful of puppies. See, after the Sleeping Beauty part, Sonorus (the town) fades away; businesses move out of the region until all that’s left are the mill and the castle, which has become a self-sufficient refuge, rather like a commune.  The story centers around a pregnant woman, running away from a mysterious past.  (Don’t worry, you’ll learn about that bit later).  She flees to the castle, and when she gets there, all of the inhabitants reveal, slowly, their back stories.

Friends, I’ve found it.  A graphic novel fairy-tale retelling with a feminist perspective. The Magical Trinity of ImageBook-Awesomeness-here it is!  Don’t tell my professors, but I read this right in class, with the book crammed under my laptop.  It’s that good!  This is the kind of book I’d like to save, to pass off to my children, if I ever have any.  It retains all of the magical fairy-tale storytelling, but Medley empowers her characters (all of them, not just the ladies), and emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and bravery, without being didactic.  I love the creativity in the book, too: all too often, it seems like fairy tale retellings stick too closely with what has already been written.  Better still, this is a series! I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one in line.

Happy Reading!

Medley, Linda. Castle Waiting, Vol. I. Lake City Way, Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2006. 452 pp. (Don’t be scared about that-it’s a graphic novel! I finished it in two days!) Ages 13-18.

Publisher’s website.  (If anyone has a link to Linda Medley’s site, I would be so grateful!)

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

“When a car came down the street, they all rose and moved their chairs up onto the curb so the car could pass.  The didn’t notice that one of the cars was the big narco LTD.  ‘Adios!’ they called, then moved their chairs back into the narrow street.  Nayeli watched everybody on the curb. She looked very carefully.  And she realized Tacho was right.  There was nobody left in town but women, old men, and little children.”

The men in Nayeli’s isolated Mexican village have all left to seek work in America.  Life continues: she works at the taco stand, helps her aunt campaign for mayor, and goes to movies at the only theater in town.  However, when drug dealers invade the town, she decides she must be the one to act.  She and her friends set out for a small town in Illinois, to find her father and bring him and the other village men back to protect their home.

This is one of the books I’m reading for my presentation at the Colorado Teen Lit Conference! I’m presenting on a trend in queer literature:  now books about LGBT teenagers aren’t always just about coming out.  Instead, there is a movement towards books with queer youth who are already out and doing amazing things like having adventures or solving mysteries.  While Nayeli is straight, her best friend (and owner of “The Fallen Hand”, the taco stand) is Tacho, is.  He demands and receives acceptance for himself in the midst of a hyper-masculine village culture.  His gayness, while mentioned, isn’t central to the story.   I think it shows a normalization of queer youth: their identities no longer have to center around their sexual orientation alone.

Anyway, there are three reasons why this book is awesome.  Firstly, it is a great concept for a story: teenagers crossing the border illegally to bring back men to their home town.  Secondly, Luis Alberto Urrea’s writing is beautiful.  He’s written eleven books, and won many awards for them.  He is poetic, but not overly so, and intersperses the story with non-didactic commentary on relations between the United States and Mexico.  Finally, it combines three of my favorite things: queer characters, minority characters, and road trips!  Excellent!

Happy Reading!

Urrea, Luis Alberto.  Into the Beautiful North. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2009. 338 p. Ages 15-18.

Author’s website: http://www.luisurrea.com/

If you liked this book, you might like Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, or you could try The House on Mango Street  by Sandra Cisneros.  (Moloka’i is for the adventure-lost-father aspect, and The House on Mango Street is about a Hispanic family in Chicago.  If you like stories about queer characters that are not about coming out, you could try Sprout, and if you like queer characters AND road trips, you could try A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.  The first of these came as a terrible shock, and like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.  Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.”

When Jacob was young, his grandfather told him many stories: stories of how he was chased by monsters out of Poland, how he took shelter on an island, at a home for children, in a place full of gardens and streams and sheep and safety. The children at the shelter had unusual skills: a levitating girl, an invisible boy, a young woman who could control fire.  Abe even had a box of photographs from those days. Jacob had seen them so many times, that he felt as if he knew them personally. Eventually, he grew too old for his grandfather’s stories,  and stopped believing.
When his grandfather is killed one night, and dies raving about monsters and begging Jacob to carry a cryptic message for him, Jacob is shattered.  Attempting to fulfill his grandfather’s final wishes leads him to a tiny island off the coast of England, where he finally finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And something horrifying, called wights, and their further horrifying counterparts, hollowgasts.  If you know anything about the myth of the wendigo , they will sound familiar to you.  Either way, Jacob grandfather was fully justified in his terror of the creatures.
The best part of this story is the creative format. Ransom Riggs integrates eerie old photographs into this story seamlessly.  You’ll be reading along about a character, and then turn the page, and there it is: a crying boy in a bunny costume, beautifully dressed twin girls who are ominously faced away from the camera,  a young boy with a monocle. The best part is that they are absolutely real photos, which makes them even creepier. They contribute to the melancholy, supernatural tone of the story.
After reading some reviews, I found that some people didn’t necessarily know how to respond to the between-genre feel of this book.  Is it written for adults? Is it YA lit? Is it science fiction? Light horror?  Personally, I think it is a little of all of the above, and I really like that.  The genre-crossing gives it a very unique feeling.  I loved the atmosphere of this book.  It feels like part X-men, part science fiction, part ghost story, part graphic novel (because of the photographs), and part war story.  It made me very happy for 24 hours!
If this one sounds good, you might like these, too:
Happy Reading!
Author’s website: http://www.ransomriggs.com (He says a sequel is coming!)
Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Quirk Books: Philadelphia, 2011. 348 pp.  Ages 14 and up.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This book is too good: I had to start with more than one quote!

Mom: “It’s more than that, sweetheart.  Every time you use new Lady ‘Stache Off with triple beauty action, you’re contributing to our economy, our way of life.  Don’t you want to be a contributor to our economy?  Don’t you want to make sure we can have bikinis, cable, and porn?  What are you, a communist?”

A Word from your Sponsor: “The Corporation would like to apologize for the preceding pages.  Of course, it’s not all right for girls to behave this way.  Sexuality is not meant to be this way-an honest, consensual expression in which a girl might take an active role when she feels good and ready and not one minute before.  No. Sexual desire is meant to sell soap. And cars. And beer. And religion.”

A plane full of Miss Teen Dream beauty contestants crash lands on a deserted island.  Armed with sequined evening gowns, safety razors, and mascara wands, the young women begin to set up home in the wilderness.  As they are doing so, they uncover conspiracies and corporate abuses of power (Ladybird Hope, head of The Corporation and presidential candidate) is involved in illegal arms trade, and is setting up the plane crash as a ratings boost.  There are pirates, mangy snakes, homemade weaponry, gummy bears, and so much satire that it will blow your mind.

I almost didn’t know how to take this book: there was just so much going on in it!  But not in a bad way; it’s just simply stunning.  In the hands of a lesser author, this could be a disaster, but with Printz award-winner Libba Bray, it’s a minor masterpiece.  She subverts the cutthroat-girl-competition paradigm and writes instead about girls celebrating each other and working together to achieve a common goal (that is, not getting eaten by snakes in the jungle).  The girls discuss identity questions, gender expectations, societal pressures, and consumerist culture, but all in this almost wacky setting, against the backdrop of the island and the looming Corporation.

The book is formatted like a television show, with commercials, Fun Facts pages for each of the young women, alternate endings, and a series of hilarious footnotes.  Bray is both ruthless and clever in her satire: she undermines consumerism by showing us all how ridiculous it can be when taken to its logical extreme.  Careful readers will notice gems such as George Bush’s infamous “misunderestimate”, and several nods to Sarah Palin.  It’s witty, zany, and so multi-layered that I feel like I need to read it again in order to fully appreciate it.  My very favorite parts were where The Corporation would directly address the readers.  Hi-la-ri-ous!

Oh, and did I mention the great characters?  Oh yeah-there’s a lesbian. A transgender girl, a girl who got into the pageant only because she wants to destroy it and everything it represents.  There are girls figuring out their sexual identity.  There are girls dealing with how their minority status excludes them from larger society.  There’s a hearing-impaired girl who is sick of pretending it’s perfectly all right that she’s got a disability, just so she doesn’t make everyone else feel guilty.  The best part is that there are no stock characters in this novel:  everyone is well-developed and acts in a realistic way.  I loved that the two queer girls didn’t fall in love, because you know what? That’s what happens in real life.

This is an intelligent look at capitalism and expectations of women in society, mixed with a lot of madcap action and appealing characters.  I think you’ll like it!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://libba-bray.livejournal.com/

Bray, Libba. Beauty Queens. Scholastic: New York, 2011. 396 pp. Ages 15-18.

 

 

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

“If you haven’t been in a war and are wondering how long it takes to get used to losing everything you think you need or love, I can tell you the answer is No time at all.”

Daisy is fifteen, and has been exiled from her Manhattan home by her father and pregnant stepmother.  She won’t eat, and no amount of expensive therapists and treatment can unravel the snarl of her eating disorder.  With that, and the new baby on the way, her family was overwhelmed, and sent her to stay in England with her cousins.

England is lush and beautiful, and the country house where her cousins live is shelter to goats, chickens, and other livestock.  They live rather unconventional lives, direct their own homeschooling, and get by with minimal supervision (though lots of love) from their mother, Daisy’s aunt.

It’s all lovely, until the War.  England is attacked, no one is sure who The Enemy is, and people run out of medicine and food. There are power failures and rationing.  There is mass panic and confusion.  In the middle of it all, Daisy’s paradise becomes a nightmare.  The cousins are separated, and survival is their only focus.

I can’t rave about this book enough.  It’s brutal and shocking at times-I turned my face from the pages during some sections.  However, that brutality is juxtaposed with lyrical descriptions of love and beauty.  Daisy’s voice is spot-on, realistic and absolutely compelling.  Furthermore, it has a timeless quality, which I think distinguishes good books from excellent books.  What I mean is, the book doesn’t seem tied down to a particular era.  The Enemy is unnamed and unknown.  While it is set in modern times, there are few pop culture references to burden this book and make it inaccessible to readers thirty years from now, and it addresses issues that will always be of concern: love, war, family, and fear.  Rosoff’s use of language (no quotation marks, capitalization of important words for emphasis, and Daisy’s unique voice) is incredible, as well: not intrusive, but crafted to direct readers’ minds to the sort of fear-inducing media techniques that are so common today.

This has been made into a radio program, and I will try my hardest to find a link to it.  In the meantime, please find this book and read it. It won the Printz Award, the Guardian Award (which is similar to the U.S. Newbery Medal) and was nominated to win the U.K. Carnegie Medal (for outstanding YA or children’s lit).  And I put it on the All Time Awesome-est list.  Want to hear something else amazing?  Yeah, this is Meg Rosoff’s first novel.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.megrosoff.co.uk/

Rosoff, Meg. How I Live Now. Wendy Lamb Books: New York, 2004. 194 pp. Ages 15 and up.

If you like this, I think you will also like Nothing  by Janne Teller.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

“When the day came, Eduardo received the newborn into his hands as though it were his own child.  His eyes blurred as he laid it in a crib and reached for the needle that would blunt its intelligence.

‘Don’t fix that one,’ said Lisa, hastily catching his arm. ‘It’s a Matteo Alacran.  They’re always left intact.'”

Matteo is a clone, formed from human DNA and raised in the womb of a cow.  Unlike other clones, though, his intelligence is not surgically limited: for a clone, he’s very fortunate, enjoying all the privileges of a real human, such as an education.  This is because he’s the special clone of El Patron, the ancient lord of the country Opium.  Opium lies between the United States and the former country of Mexico: a vast tract of poppies, eejits (computer-chipped slaves who work the fields), a set of terrifying bodyguards, and the powerful family of El Patron.

Clones, as Matteo slowly learns, are considered sub-human, monstrous, and only good for one thing: growing transplantable organs.  As El Patron’s body ages and begins to deteriorate, Matteo’s organs will be harvested, and given to El Patron.  This process has been repeated many times in the past, allowing El Patron to reach the age of 148.  If Matt wants to live past his preteen years, he’s got to escape.  Furthermore, if there is any hope for justice for the thousand of enslaved eejit workers, who are all captured illegal immigrants, Matt must face the sinister system that brought him into existence.

This near-future science fiction deals with issues of illegal immigration, drug empires, cloning, and what constitutes being a human.  The action builds steadily, and spans various settings and many years, but never feels drawn-out or stretched.  Nancy Farmer is also a genius at creating seemingly-impossible-to-escape situations, and then magically unraveling them with a plausible, but unexpected solution.  Especially appealing for me is Matt’s gradual realization of the implications of being a clone: readers watch him develop a full consciousness of his identity throughout the book.  This is great writing, friends!

I should mention that Farmer has already written two other Newbery Honor books, and they are also incredible.  When I was ten, my best friend handed me her copy of The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, also written by Farmer.  It’s one of those books I remember with startling clarity, because it shocked my childish brain, which until that point was only accustomed to the Bobbsey Twins  and The Baby-sitters Club series, or perhaps the occasional abridged classic.  (Does anyone remember the illustrated and abridged Hound of the Baskervilles?)  Anyway, that was an amazing book, and this one is too!  It won the National Book Award, the Newbery Honor, and the Printz Honor, and it is an ALA Best Book, too!  The front cover sparkles with all the medals, and the text inside will blow your mind.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.nancyfarmerwebsite.com

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. New York: Simon Pulse, 2002.  380 pp.  Ages 11 and up.

 

 

 

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

“Connor had known other kids at school who disappeared over the past couple of years.  One day they just didn’t turn up.  Teachers would say that they were ‘gone’ or ‘no longer enrolled’.  Those were just code words, though.  Everyone knew what they meant.”

The Heartland War is over now, a bitter battle over the sanctity of life.  As per the new agreement, life begins at conception and cannot be tampered with until a child reaches the age of thirteen.  However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, parents can choose to have their children “unwound”, by sending them to a “harvest camp” and having all of their organs  donated to others.  That way, life doesn’t technically stop; the teen keeps living, albeit in the bodies of many other recipients.  If you are not able to raise your baby until he or she reaches the age of thirteen, you can “stork” it: leave it on someone’s door stop and run away.  Finders, keepers, according to the law.

Unwind is the story of three teens.  Connor has behavior problems, and his parents have signed the unwind orders because they just can’t handle him acting out anymore.  Risa is a ward of the state, a piano player who simply wasn’t talented enough to be allowed to continue living (what with budget cuts and all, there isn’t enough money to invest in anyone but the most skilled).  Lev is a tithe, a child who was born to be a sacrifice under the tithing code, where ten percent of all wealth is given to the government.  They are all slated to be unwound, when Connor initiates a series of events (bus crash, human shield, lots of confusion) that allows all three of them to escape.  The three must then navigate the underground world of escaped unwinds, learning how to survive without drawing attention to themselves.  If they can make it until their eighteenth birthdays, they are home free.  But it certainly won’t be easy…

This futuristic tale is riveting; built around an interesting concept and driven by strong, complex characters.  Shusterman creates an elaborate world of these characters, and each one of them is interesting enough to merit a personal story.  His universe is populated by the Clappers, a dreaded terrorist group, a wizened antiques dealer whose shop is a front for the unwind version of the Underground Railroad, and an eccentric who creates a large-scale shelter for unwinds in the middle of the Arizona desert.  Everyone’s got a back story, and Shusterman lets us all in on it, which I absolutely love.  Even though it is a complicated world, with a lot of unfamiliar political and social situations, it is still very accessible to readers. That’s a tricky balancing act for many writers.  I really enjoyed that the story was not predictable, either.  I was expecting a daring escape, but there is just no way to guess where Shusterman will take readers next.  Awesome!

Unwind won two of the big awards:  it’s an ALA Best Book, as well as a Best Book for Reluctant Readers.  It also won about a billion state awards, including a placement on the Oklahoma Sequoyah Award list (my home state, folks!).  This is a fast-paced, engrossing read that covers heavy topics like the definition of human life, reproductive rights, politics, the ethical concerns of organ donation for profit, and governmental power.  I think you’re going to love it!  And if you do, you’re certainly in luck, because there’s going to be a movie version released, and also, Shusterman has written a ton of other incredible books!  So, while you’re waiting for the movie, you might want to try his crazy-popular Skinjacker series, which includes the books Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.storyman.com

Movie website: http://unwindmovie.com

Shusterman, Neal.  Unwind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007. 335 pp.  Ages 13 and up.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

“‘But it’s not about camping out. It’s about becoming what I want to become.  Not what some surgical committee thinks I should.’

‘You’re still yourself on the inside, Shay.  But when you’re pretty, people pay more attention.’

‘Not everyone thinks that way.’

In this post-apocalyptic novel, everyone starts out as “littlies”.  When they hit the ungainly pre-teen years, they are called “uglies”.  And, on the day they turn sixteen, they have the operation: the surgery that transforms them them from a lowly, dorm-living ugly, to one of the “pretties”.  Tally can’t wait for her birthday, for the day she will be freed from her imperfections and go join her friends in New Pretty Town, where it’s all about parties and having fun.

Things aren’t as they seem, though.  Tally’s friend Shay is vehemently opposed to the surgery.  She says she wants to stay the way she is, and not be changed by the authorities.  The ominous thing about the surgery is that some believe that it isn’t just appearances that are changed under the knife: personalities change, too.  People become more pliable, agreeable, even sheep-like.

In order to avoid her surgery,  Shay plans a daring escape, to the Smoke, a city of people living off the land, who have all somehow escaped the cosmetic surgery.  Shay escapes, but the authorities are suspicious.  Special Circumstances, the elite pretties who run everything, pick her up and threaten her: Tally will never get her operation unless she agrees to lead the authorities to the city of Smoke.  They intend to arrest and apprehend all of the people living there, considering them dangerous radicals who threaten the status quo.

Tally is trapped: she desperately wants to be pretty, but she doesn’t want to betray a friend.  Having no choice, she makes the journey through the wilderness and finds Smoke.  When she gets there, though, she has second thoughts about blowing the whistle.  She falls for a native Smokie, a boy who was born and raised in the outpost.  Unfortunately, in trying to destroy the signal necklace that the Special Circumstances made her wear, she accidentally sets it off, and the police swoop in and arrest everyone.

The first book in this trilogy ends in a daring rescue, as Tally sneaks into Special Circumstances headquarters in attempt to rescue those who were captured. I haven’t read the others yet, but I plan to.  I’ll tell you all about them when I do.

I love the premise of the book:  this is a different sort of post-apocalyptic novel, not one plagued by scarcity and disease.  It’s blissful and full of plenty.  They look at the past humans, Rusties, as wasteful and slightly less intelligent beings, who brought about their own downfall by their dependence on oil.  For me, the first hundred pages were a little slow-they were just about Tally’s life before the operation-but then I really got into the story.  Just push past the first parts and you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://scottwesterfeld.com/

Westerfield, Scott. Uglies. New York: Simon Pulse Books, 2005. 448 pp. Ages 12 and up.

If you liked this book, try the next two in the series: Pretties and  Specials.

I just found a great review with a feminist slant on Adios Barbie .  Check it out, friends! http://www.adiosbarbie.com/2012/01/are-you-an-ugly-or-a-pretty/