It takes place in the future, about 300 years after some sort of disaster destroys the old civilization (24.60). It takes place partly in an unnamed city and partly in a small town in the wilderness called the Smoke.
1. 300 years into the future, the government provides for everything, including plastic surgery operations.
2. Once you turn 16, you receive a “pretty” operation. It transforms you into a ‘normal’ citizen.
3. After the operation, new Pretties cross the river that divides the city and lead a new life with no responsibilities or obligations.
4. Former cities have decayed after bacteria infected the world’s petroleum, making it unstable. People who lived before this catastrophe are called “Rusties.”
5. Tally Youngblood is almost sixteen.
6. Her best friend, Peris, has already had the operation and, motivated by her desire to see him, Tally sneaks across the river to New Pretty Town.
7. There she meets Shay, another Ugly.
8. They become friends and Shay teaches Tally how to ride a hoverboard.
9. Shay mentions rebelling against the operation.
10. At first, Tally ignores the idea, but is forced to deal with it when Shay runs away a few days before their shared sixteenth birthday, leaving behind cryptic directions to her destination, a “renegade settlement” called the Smoke, where city runaways go to escape the operation.
11. On the day of Tally’s operation, she is taken to Special Circumstances, a division that is likened to “gremlins” and, “blamed when anything weird happens.”
12. Dr. Cable, a woman who is described as “a cruel pretty”, is the head of Special Circumstances.
13. She gives Tally an ultimatum to either help locate Shay and the Smoke, or never become a pretty.
14. Tally cooperates and Dr. Cable gives her a hoverboard and all the needed supplies to survive in the wild, along with a heart locket that contains a tracking device.
15. Once activated, it will show the location of the Smoke to Special Circumstances. Following Shay’s clues, Tally sets off to find her friend.
16. When Tally arrives at the Smoke, she finds Shay, her friend David and an entire community of runaway Uglies. She is reluctant to activate the pendant and it eventually becomes clear that David is in love with her.
17. David takes her to meet his parents, Maddy and Az, who are the original runaways from the city.
18. They explain how the operation does more than “cosmetic nipping and tucking.”
19. It also causes lesions in the brain to make the people placid, or “pretty-minded.” Horrified, Tally decides to keep the Smoke secret and throws the locket into a fire.
20. However, the flames’ heat causes the tracker to activate, giving away the Smoke’s location.
21. The following morning, Special Circumstances arrives at the camp and Tally makes an effort to escape.
22. She does not succeed and is caught and taken to a rabbit pen, where other caught Smokies are kept, tied up.
23. Eye scans are taken of all the captured Smokies, identifying from which city they fled. Tally is then taken to Dr. Cable, who explains how they found the Smoke. Dr. Cable thinks Tally purposefully activated the pendant.
24. After being ordered to retrieve the pendant, Tally escapes on a hoverboard.
25. After a long and stressful chase, she manages to hide in a cave where they cannot track her heat signature.
26. There she finds David also hiding and together, they begin to plan a rescue.
27. Tally and David go back to his house, where they find evidence that Special Circumstances took Maddy and Az.
28. David leads Tally to a secret stash of survival equipment where they find everything they need, and load them onto the four hoverboards stashed there.
29. As Tally and David travel back to the city, they fall in love. Arriving at the Special Circumstances complex, they find out that Shay has already been “turned” and is now a Pretty.
30. After meeting Dr. Cable, David knocks her out and takes her work tablet.
31. Tally and David then free all the Smokies held in the complex. Maddy then mentions to david that Az is dead.
32. Once everyone is safe, Maddy begins working on a cure.
33. Since Tally feels responsible, she decides to become a Pretty and take the cure as a “willing subject”.
34. While David is dealing with what Tally admitted, Maddy advises Tally to go back with Shay before her mind changes just in case.
35. Once there, Tally announces to a Middle Pretty, “I’m Tally Youngblood. Make me pretty.”
Heart Shaped Pendant
The heart shaped pendant is a tracker and which Tally was supposed to activate as soon as she got to the Smoke. This pendant is not just a symbol of Tally’s treachery, but also a symbol of her internal struggle.
White Tiger Orchids
The white tiger orchids symbolizes an excessive good that has turned evil because there is too much of it. The orchids can be compared to the Pretties.
Hoverboards are a symbol of maturity, mostly for Tally.
Scarred hands symbolize friendship, mostly for Tally. The scar itself was created when Peris and she cut their palms and swore to be best friends forever.
Power of Appearance
It is demonstrated that prettiness and ugliness are both relative terms. When Tally was an ugly, she waited for the surgery. However, when she learned that things are not the way they appear to be, she quickly coiled away. The ugly truth under all that prettiness is that undergoing the surgery would mean having brain lesions and part of her former identity erased; most Pretties are gorgeous but have flaws such as vainness. Also, in Tally’s society, appearances are emphasized. As Uglies, they are even encouraged to nickname each other based on physical imperfections, such as “Squint” or “Skinny”. In world with perfect faces, average faces would be considered ugly by comparison. But among Pretties, because there is no comparison, they are constantly unsatisfied and often change their looks on a weekly basis by surgery. It thus implied that in a world where perfection is so easily attainable, people would still soon be unsatisfied and seek for more.