copies of the Uglies book series next to a potted plant

Will the Upcoming ‘Uglies’ Film Adaptation Live Up to Fans’ Expectations?

While the book series has been popular since its release in 2005, readers are worried that a movie will leave them disappointed.
December 23, 2021
9 mins read

“Any other summer, a sunset like this would have been beautiful. But nothing had been beautiful since Peris turned pretty.”

Picture this: Tally, a young, 15-year-old girl who is three months away from her “Pretty” surgery, is missing her best friend Peris who has already had the Pretty procedure. Tally waits until dark to sneak out of her town, Uglyville, and into New Pretty Town to find Peris and speak to him. Tally’s journey to New Pretty Town is just the beginning of author Scott Westerfeld’s book “Uglies,” and it’s also more than likely the opening scene of the book’s upcoming film adaptation.

Westerfeld wrote “Uglies” in 2005; the book opened what was originally scheduled to be a trilogy, but due to popular demand, it became a four-part series instead. Now, over a decade later, Netflix is adapting “Uglies” into a movie. One can only hope that the entire series will be included, or at least foreshadowed, in the upcoming film, which is unfortunately not the case for many other book series whose film adaptations often fall short of readers’ expectations.

“Uglies” features a dystopian society where so-called Uglies undergo cosmetic surgery to become Pretties when they turn 16. The story focuses on an Ugly named Tally Youngblood and her journey of discovering the secrets behind her society. Like all dystopian society books, Tally and her friends learn of the wrongs their leaders resort to in order to maintain control over their people.

“Uglies” Synopsis

At first, Tally wants nothing more than to be a Pretty so that she can join her best friend Peris in New Pretty Town; however, after she meets a girl named Shay who shares the same birthday as Tally and is thus meant to have the surgery on the same day, things begin to change. Shay doesn’t want to be a Pretty like Tally does, and a few hours before their birthday, Shay asks Tally to leave with her to a place with no Pretties; Tally refuses, but Shay leaves anyway. Unfortunately, because others know of their affiliation, Tally cannot receive her surgery until she reveals what she knows of Shay’s whereabouts to a government division known as Special Circumstances.

It isn’t until Peris visits Tally and coerces her into doing all she can to get her surgery that Tally finally comes forward. However, her cooperation isn’t enough, so Tally must search for and reveal the location of a place called the Smoke, a city that many Uglies, now Smokies, have escaped to in order to avoid surgery. Once Tally locates the Smoke and Shay, she stays, gets to know its people, and learns that the Smoke is a real home for some people and all they have ever known. This realization encourages Tally to burn a tracking device that Special Circumstances gave her; however, by destroying the device, Tally unknowingly notifies Special Circumstances of her location. Special Circumstances then storm the Smoke and kidnap its people.

Both Tally and Shay are among those who are kidnapped, but Tally finds a way to escape and saves Shay and David, the son of the founders of the Smoke, in the process. In their journey back to the Smoke, David’s mother, Maddy, reveals that she stole the cure for the Pretty surgery but that she needs a subject to test it on. Because Shay underwent surgery while in New Pretty Town, they try to convince her to volunteer to take the cure; however, Shay no longer wants to be an Ugly. The story ends with Tally confessing to the surviving inhabitants of the Smoke that she was an unwilling spy and turning herself in to the authorities to undergo Pretty surgery in order to test out the cure.

The Future “Uglies” Film Adaptation

In 2020, it was announced that Joey King would be starring in the upcoming “Uglies” film, presumably as Tally Youngblood, which was then confirmed in 2021. King, known for her roles in “The Conjuring” and “The Kissing Booth,” isn’t new to movie series nor Netflix. It was mentioned that King liked the “Uglies” book series and had been eyeing a role in the movie adaption.

“Uglies” is the first book in the eponymous series, followed by “Pretties,” “Specials” and “Extras.” The series is popular enough that it received three book spinoffs and a fourth set to be released in 2022. Separate offshoots of the book also exist, including one that tells the “Uglies” story from Shay’s perspective.

Unfortunately, many popular books-turned-movies haven’t seen the brightest of screens. “Beautiful Creatures,” written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, only received one movie despite being a four-part book series, with two side stories and a spinoff series. Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” was also part of a four-part book series that revolved around a dystopian society, but it only received one movie. In contrast, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner both obtained a movie or even two for every book in their series.

During the days of Blockbuster, Netflix was originally a movie distributor, but it has since moved on from renting out physical DVDs to streaming on its website. Today, the company frequently releases new TV and movie series, and for the most part, each one of them does well, and even if they don’t, Netflix generally tries to give its viewers some kind of ending before killing a project.

The Kissing Booth” and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” each of which is known because of TikTok and their younger target audiences, both received a movie adaptation for every part of their series despite sometimes lackluster ratings. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” received a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet even after the second film dropped to 76%, the third movie was still released. Likewise, “The Kissing Booth” only received a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but Netflix still funded a second movie, which, with a 27% rating, did only marginally better than the first.

McG, director of “The DUFF,” “The Babysitter” and the original “Charlie’s Angels” film, will be directing “Uglies.” Based on his past successful projects, fans should have faith that the “Uglies” adaptation will not only do well but will receive an adaption for every book in at least its first series. Yet the wait is still on, as no announcement has been made about a release date.

Illusion Ventura, Whittier College

Writer Profile

Illusion Ventura

Whittier College
English and Psychology

I am an adventurous person trying to find my way in the world. I love reading and writing and try to do as much as I can in my free time.

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