Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: UGLIES: Cutters


CREATOR: Scott Westerfeld
WRITERS: Scott Westerfeld, Devin Grayson
ART: Steven Cummings
COVER: Steven Cummings with Espen Grundetjern
ISBN: 978-0-345-52723-3; paperback (December 4, 2012)
176pp, B&W, $10.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN

Scott Westerfeld is an American science fiction author who has written several book series aimed at the young adult market (YA). The Uglies is a series of young adult, science fiction/fantasy novels written by Westerfeld. The series, which began in 2005 with the publication of Uglies, is set 300 years in the future in a time in which everyone is turned “pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery. The Uglies’ central character is Tally Youngblood, a teen girl who rebels against this forced conformity.

Uglies: Cutters is the second of two original graphic novels that are set in the world of the Uglies and tell new stories through the eyes of Tally’s friend, Shay, another teen girl. Like the first graphic novel (Uglies: Shay’s Story), Uglies: Cutters is scripted by Devin Grayson from a story by Scott Westerfeld and is drawn by artist Steven Cummings.

Uglies: Cutters apparently takes place after the second prose novel in the series, Pretties (2005). The series’ lead character, Tally Youngblood, and her best friend, Shay, have undergone “the Surge,” which is the rite-of-passage surgery that transforms them from “Ugly” to “Pretty.” Shay now lives in New Pretty Town enjoying the good life, and she is hoping to be inducted into Tally’s clique, the “Crims” (short for “criminal”).

Shay, however, is troubled by her new life as a stunning beauty. She is plagued by bad dreams and is somewhat distressed that she cannot remember much about her time in “The Smoke,” a wilderness camp where runaways live. She also has noticed that both Tally and Zane, a boy Shay likes, are always together and have been acting strangely. Suddenly, distrustful of her friend, Shay starts to gather a rebellious group of her own, the “Cutters.” But Shay is fighting on three fronts: against Tally, the mysterious Special Circumstances, and Dr. Cable, and this fight will be tougher than she realizes.

Like Shay’s Story, Uglies: Cutters deals with adolescent themes of emotional and physical change, but Cutters is more about the aftermath of such changes. Cutters also emphasizes the conflict within social groups, depicting rivalries and jealousies. Cutters is about suspicious minds, and Shay’s mind is full of suspicions, and, in a way, that makes her something akin to an unreliable narrator. For instance, is she creating a love triangle (involving herself, Tally, and Zane) where none exists? The fun is that you never know how much truth there is to her inklings.

Early in Cutters, the authors focus in on the shallowness of Pretty life, so much so that the story turns as shallow as party-happy Pretty. Gradually, however, the narrative comes together, and Cutters reveals itself to be something more than just science fiction-fantasy. It is also a mystery story, with the lead characters trying to unravel a conspiracy and uncover secrets, all the while going through some mean teen angst. Uglies: Cutters starts off badly, but gets better as the story goes along. It ends with a bang, maybe even leaving you wanting more.

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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