Scott Westerfeld writes in with the astounding news that his publisher, Simon and Shuster, have agreed to distribute his bestselling novel Uglies as a free, DRM-free PDF. The series has sold more than a million copies, and it's one of my favorite YA series of all time.
Here's my original review of the series:
Uglies is the story of a dystopian world where children are raised by the state and subjected to mandatory cosmetic surgery at 16, wherein they are rendered physically "perfect" on the basis that symmetrical, statistically average people with giant eyes are charismatic, convincing, and are afforded advantages by their peers; in the twisted logic of the Westerfeld's state, imposing this surgery on all creates an egalitarian basis for society. No one is heeded merely because she is beautiful; no idea is disregarded because it originates with someone who is ugly.
The novels tell the story of Tally Youngblood, a 16-year-old small-time rebel who becomes embroiled in a scheme to avoid the surgery, leading to her exile and eventual encounters with outsiders, secret police, and the gradual, sinister unravelling of the dark secret of the compassionate society.
The Uglies books are the perfect parables of adolescent life, where adult-imposed milestones, rituals, and divide-and-rule tactics amp children's natural adolescent insecurities into a full-blown, decade-long psychosis. They're the kind of book I loved reading at 15 or 16: damned fine science fiction and damned fine yarns. Having read the first two, I can barely wait for the third, Specials, due out in May 06.