Friday, November 14, 2008

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

As I mentioned previously (a few posts ago), I wanted to review this book separately from the other books in the Uglies trilogy, because I felt more like it was a companion novel. The other three books all follow the character of Tally Youngblood, and center around the plot of the destruction of that world/way of life. This book takes place three years later, in a completely different city, and while Tally does show up eventually, she does not do so until two thirds of the story is already over.
The main character of Extras is Aya Fuse, a fifteen-year-old who is stuck being ugly because her parents still believe she should wait until she is sixteen to get any kind of surgery (in Aya's city, anyone can get whatever kind of plastic surgery they want, whenever they want - not just to be Pretty anymore). Not only is she Ugly, she's also an extra, a nobody who wishes she was famous. In her city, everyone has at least one hovercam that follows them and helps them document their world. Everyone is constantly uploading information to their own personal feed, and if enough people see their stuff and send it on, "kicking" it up higher in the feed numbers, that person becomes famous. Once a person is famous, they are constantly dealing with their celebrity status, as other less-famous people try to get stories about them. Aya's dream is to "kick" a huge story, one that will make her at least as famous as her older brother, and will save her from her fate as a boring nobody extra. She obviously finds her story, and Tally shows up to save them from themselves.
I really enjoyed this book. I even liked it better than the previous three books that took place in the series. It could probably be read without reading those others, but there will be a few inside jokes that would be lost on the reader. Other than that, Westerfeld explains the world well enough that it makes sense. I loved the fact that Aya's city seemed to be a commentary on the blogsphere. Maybe we aren't as obsessed with getting famous as everyone in her city is, but certainly there are plenty of "kickers" out there, as well as paparazzi and hangers-on trying to get famous from rubbing elbows with someone else. The book really does bring up some very valid issues about fame and popularity, and why they are important to some people, or not at all to others. It is an engaging read that would be enjoyed by fans of the series, as well as by teens who want an interesting book to read that will make them think (but not too much).

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