Uglies is a young-adult science fiction novel set in a post-scarcity dystopia sometime in the future. It is the first in the Uglies trilogy.
Uglies follows Tally Youngblood, a 16-year-old on the verge of undergoing a mandatory cosmetic surgery operation to turn her into a pretty, or alter her body so it reflects her culture's beauty ideal. Lest she be refused the surgery and forced to remain ugly the rest of her life, Tally is tasked with infiltrating the Smoke, a secret settlement of people who have escaped the ruthless tyranny of their cities' mandatory operations, in order to betray its location to Special Circumstances, a covert governmental branch. Though she is initially confident in her decision to betray the Smoke, Tally's time among the Smokies sows doubt in her mind about the ethics of the surgeries, leaving her to make a difficult choice that will affect her own future and the futures of those she loves.
Published in 2005, Uglies enjoyed widespread popularity and a largely positive critical reception. It was featured on the New York Times Bestseller list and hailed by the Times as "a superb work of popular art."
Uglies was reissued in 2011 and has two sequels—Pretties and Specials. In 2007, Westerfeld released another novel set in the Uglies universe: Extras. In 2018, it was announced that Westerfeld would be publishing four more books in the universe, the Imposters series.
Westerfeld's initial inspiration for the premise of Uglies came after a friend was encouraged by his dentist to undergo a series of cosmetic surgeries for his teeth, solely to improve their appearance. This seed germinated into an incisive critique of humankind's obsession with beauty, and the ways in which such an obsession might lead to the development of a surveillance state.
The dedication page for Uglies reads: "This novel was shaped by a series of e-mail exchanges between myself and Ted Chiang about his story Liking What You See: A Documentary. According to Westerfeld, Chiang provided invaluable feedback on the novel during all stages of its development.