Scott Westerfield,
(Simon Pulse, 2005)

In the second book of the Uglies trilogy, Tally Youngblood is now pretty and about to be voted into the Crims, one of the hottest cliques in New Pretty Town. She has also caught the eye of Zane, more or less the leader of the Crims and particularly striking as pretties go. Her stay in the Smoke is more like an old dream to her, lost in her past -- but her past is about to catch up with her.

Guided by one of the surviving Smokies who crashes the party she's attending, Tally finds a packet containing two pills and a letter -- from Tally before her pretty operation. The pills are supposed to be the cure for the brain lesions and, according to the letter, she agreed to take them, accepting that she could suffer serious side effects.

Tally isn't alone when she makes her discovery; she is with Zane, who seems to be doing whatever he can to get past the vapid pretty state of mind. Since the packet was in a prohibited area, Special Circumstances are on their way, and there's little time to make a decision. Tally is hesitant, afraid of the possible side effects, but at Zane's urging she takes one pill and Zane takes the other. They destroy the letter just in time.

The cure works, although no one official knows about that. Zane and Tally are monitored even more closely than ever. Tally feels fine, but Zane begins developing severe headaches, which he endures stoically, since surgery would reveal that his lesions were gone. But when Shay suspects that something has changed, then finds her own way of clearing her mind, Tally knows that it's time to get out of the city and to take Zane with her.

After an escape that goes awry, Tally discovers a community of people who live in an enclosed area as an anthropological experiment. The people live in primitive conditions and view "pretties" as gods. Any other intruder is killed. Later, she is reunited with the Smokies, including David and his mother, but her happiness is short-lived when she learns that Zane's condition is deteriorating. Once again, Dr. Cable has figured out how to track Tally and Zane, and this time there is no way to destroy the transmitter. Faced with the choice of running off with David or staying with Zane, she chooses to stay and wait for Special Circumstances, only to find that her choice will have a "Special" meaning for her.

Westerfield maintains the pace of the second novel well, again favoring plot over characterization to keep the pages turning. Characterization isn't completely sacrificed, however. Tally's transition from "bubblehead" to clear-minded is well handled, and her relationship with Zane is particularly well drawn and will appeal to readers' sympathy.

The book does not stand well independently; readers would be well advised to start with Uglies to get the necessary background. After that, Pretties is a pretty good read.

review by
Donna Scanlon

22 March 2008

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