Study Guide

Uglies Genre

By Scott Westerfeld


Young Adult Literature, Coming of Age, Science Fiction, Dystopian Literature, Quest

Young Adult Literature

Don't let anyone tell you YA lit is just for kids. All that "YA" means is that (1) usually the main characters are teens and (2) the book deals with issues that teens are dealing with. That's true in this book. And that brings us to…

Coming of Age

Tally, Shay, and David are all teens, but they are also dealing with issues of becoming adult. Now, this is only the first book in a tetralogy (that's four books), so we don't see too much growing up here. But we definitely see the beginning of Tally's coming of age as she struggles with the big issues of her life (identity, friendship, freedom, hoverboards).

Science Fiction

And let's throw science fiction into the mix: Uglies takes place in a future world where people are dealing with some science fictional advances. (We only wish Westerfeld had added robots to this already science fictional book. Or how about: Uglies... in Space!)

Dystopian Literature

But the future world that Westerfeld writes about is not too great. Sure, there are hoverboards, but there's also a repressive government in the city and a secret police who will force you to undergo surgery. That's why we say this book includes elements of dystopia, which is an imaginary, terrible world. (Utopia is when it's a good world.)

But let's be clear: it's not as bad as something like 1984. In Uglies, there are some bad things, but there's the possibility of fighting against them. Which brings us to…


Tally is constantly running from one place to another, trying to reach some goal: she's on a quest to see Peris in the first chapter; she's on a quest to find Shay and the Smoke later; she's on a quest to rescue the Smokies; she's on a quest and another quest and still more quests. Almost all of Tally's activities are quests, as she goes out to make a better world (or at least a less pretty one).