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Uglies: Shay's Story by Scott Westerfield & Devin Grayson illustrated by Steven Cummings

01/06/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker

Buy Uglies: Shay's Story in the USA - or Buy Uglies: Shay's Story in the UK

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. 208 page small enlarged monochrome graphic novel. Price: $10.99 (US), $12.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-52722-6.

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Scott Westfield has written four novels in the ‘ Uglies’ series of books: ‘ Uglies’, ‘ Pretties’, ‘ Specials’ and ‘ Extras’. For this graphic novel, he teamed up with accomplished comic book storywriter Devin Grayson to write ‘ Shay’s Story’. The novel was illustrated by Steven Cummings who also provided the cover artwork. This edition of the graphic novel is in the cut down 8¼ x 5¾ inch size with measurements. While the cover is in colour, the novel’s illustrations are all in black and white. This should not be taken as a criticism as I think the monochrome format works very well with this story. The artistic style clearly has a manga influence that is also very apt for the story.

The Uglies universe is set in the future where small children are known as Littlies up to the age of twelve from when they become known as Uglies. This lasts until their sixteenth birthday where they undergo a surgical procedure, ‘ The Surge’, to become perfect, beautiful people known as Pretties. This novel tells the tale of Shay, who is just a few months away from her sixteenth birthday and is having serious second thoughts about undergoing the Surge to become a Pretty.

These early teen-age years can be a trying time in an ordinary environment but for Shay and the other Uglies, they are segregated from the Pretties in an area of the town called Uglyville. Venturing outside of the boundary of Uglyville is prohibited and carries severe punishment for those caught by the Wardens. I might be getting a little old but experience tells me that lumping all these young teen-agers together and telling them not to do something is bound to end in trouble. It’s a bit like waving a red rag to a bull and sure enough the teenagers do not disappoint.

Shay becomes acquainted with the ‘ Crims’, a group of rebellious Uglies who like to break the rules. After a glorious trick meant to disrupt a big party backfires, they introduce Shay to David who operates a training camp for runaways in the ruins of a city some distance from Uglyville and its wardens. David teaches the city kids survival skills allowing them to live outside the city. There is the promise of a place called the Smoke where those Uglies who do not want to undergo the Surge can runaway to and find a safe haven.

This novel is clearly aimed at the teen-age market and there is some girl meets boy romance going on. However, this is entirely in keeping with the characters, their ages and the choices they have to make. The story is very well-written with the Uglies, completely underestimating the adults while concentrating most of their attention on themselves and each other. This is so true to real life it is almost painful.

Having followed Shay through two hundred pages of escapades, difficult choices and difficult boyfriends there is a logical break in the story, which marks the end of this graphic novel. It does end with a ‘ To Be Continued…’ legend though and the narrative at the back says the second book is almost ready. This is a relief, as personally I can’t wait to read it. ‘ Uglies: Shay’s Story’ is on my ‘ to be recommended list’ due to the interesting story perfectly depicted by the artwork of Steven Cummings. I would recommend this to anyone regardless of age as I enjoyed it and can barely remember my sixteenth birthday.

Andy Whitaker

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This book has 8 votes in the sci-fi charts

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