Scott Westerfeld: Uglies (excerpt from the novel, 2005)
The novel is set in a futuristic world in which everyone is surgically altered at the age of sixteen to be
pretty. Tally cannot wait until her birthday when she will be turned pretty and allowed to live in New
Pretty Town with her best friend Peris. However, when Tally’s new friend Shay runs away, Tally is
told by Special Circumstances that she will remain ugly all her life unless she agrees to track down
Shay and bring her back.
They were hidden in the changing rooms beside the sandy beach, where they’d left their interface
and a spare set of clothes. If anyone asked, they’d say they were swimming the whole time.
Swimming was a great trick. It hid your body-heat signature, involved changing clothes, and was a
perfect excuse for not wearing your interface ring. The river washed away all crimes.
A minute later they splashed out into the water […].
"I'm serious, Tally," Shay said once they were out in the water. "Your nose isn't ugly. I like your
"My eyes? Now you're totally crazy. They're way too close together."
Shay splashed a handful of water at her. "You don't believe all that crap, do you – that there's only
one way to look, and everyone's programmed to agree on it?"
"It's not about believing, Shay. You just know it. You've seen pretties. They look… wonderful."
"They all look the same."
"I used to think that too. But when Peris and I would go into town, we'd see a lot of them, and we
that pretties do look different. They look like themselves. It's just a lot more subtle, because
they're not all freaks."
"We're not freaks, Tally. We're normal. We may not be gorgeous, but at least we're not hyped-up
Barbie dolls." […]
"Okay, Shay. […] You can't change it just by wishing, or by telling yourself that you're pretty. That's
they invented the operation."
"But it's a trick, Tally. You've only seen pretty faces your whole life. Your parents, your teachers,
everyone over sixteen. But you weren't born expecting that kind of beauty in everyone, all the time.
You just got programmed into thinking anything else is ugly."
"It's not programming, it's just a natural reaction. And more important than that, it's fair. In the old
was all random – some people kind of pretty, most people ugly all their lives. Now everyone's
ugly… until they're pretty. No losers."
Shay was silent for a while, then said, "There are losers, Tally."
Tally shivered. Everyone knew about uglies-for-life, the few people for whom the operation wouldn't
work. You didn't see them around much. They were allowed in public, but most of them preferred to
wouldn't? Uglies might look goofy, but at least they were young. Old uglies were really
"Is that it? Are you worried about the operation not working? That's silly, Shay. You're no freak. In
two weeks you'll be as pretty as anyone else."
"I don't want to be pretty."
Tally sighed. This again.
"I'm sick of this city," Shay continued. "I'm sick of the rules and boundaries. The last thing I want is
to become some empty-headed new pretty, having one big party all day."
"Come on, Shay. They do all the same stuff we do: bungee jump, fly, play with fireworks." […]
"Look, Skinny, I'm with you," Tally said sharply. "Doing tricks is great! Okay? Breaking the rules is
fun! But eventually you've got to do something besides being a clever little ugly."
"Like being a vapid, boring pretty?"
"No, like being an adult. Did you ever think that when you're pretty you might not need to play tricks
and mess things up? Maybe just being ugly is why uglies always fight and pick on one another,
because they aren't happy with who they are. Well, I want to be happy, and looking like a real person
is the first step."
"I'm not afraid of looking the way I do, Tally."
"Maybe not, but you are afraid of growing up!"
Shay didn't say anything. Tally floated in silence, looking up at the sky, barely able to see the clouds
through her anger. She wanted to be pretty, wanted to see Peris again. […] She was sick of this whole
ugly business, and just wanted it to end.
A minute later, she heard Shay swimming for shore.
Scott Westerfeld: Uglies, New York 2005, S. 78 – 81.
 Special Circumstances: Secret Service-like organisation responsible for keeping pretties and uglies in the city
 interface ring: tracking device for interaction with other devices, also used for total surveillance