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by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies Theme of Coming of Age

In Uglies, coming of age isn't just about going through puberty and having to take the SAT. Coming of age means being able to find a place in the world: a home where you belong, some work that's important, a goal or idea that motivates you. (Also important to find: a comfy restaurant you can go to in your pajamas.) The pretty surgery is a classic rite of passage that distinguishes the ugly kids from the adults; but in this world, we learn that the adults may not be all that mature. So it's up to Tally and other young people (pre-surgery) to fix the system and make the sort of world they would want to live in.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. Besides the surgery, what other experiences help characters come of age in this book? Do characters grow up by facing crisis and adversity? For instance, when would you say that Tally comes of age? When she gives in to Dr. Cable, or travels in the wilderness, or decides to stay in the Smoke, or… maybe she never comes of age and remains young forever?
  2. How do different characters respond to the idea of coming of age? Tally accuses Shay of being afraid of it, but is she really? What other emotions do characters feel about coming of age? Do any of the older people worry or joke about growing old and crumbly?
  3. What does this book tell us about the other stages of life and the other surgeries? What do we know about middle pretties and late pretties? How do they spend their days and what matters to them?
  4. How does it affect your reading that the pretty surgery happens at 16? How would you feel if the pretty surgery happened around 12 or 13? Or even earlier—what would you think if this book was about pretty toddlers? (That sounds like an idea for a reality TV show.)

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Characters in Uglies come of age when they learn what matters most to them (sometimes hoverboards, sometimes relationships).

Coming of age in Uglies has nothing to do with age and everything to do with friendships and identity. Tally comes of age when she realizes who she is and what friendships mean to her.

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