The Price of Being Pretty

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to declare my love for a YA novel, but I am utterly proud of loving this book. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is the book that ignited my desire to work in the publishing industry. It was the first book that I felt personally connected to. After reading it almost ten years ago, I realized that you could find a friend in books. Uglies challenged my views and supported me through my insecurities, and it was amazing to me that a book was able to do that. I wanted to be a part of that world—a world where words are that strong. (And I was thrilled to work on a reprint for it this past year!) This novel was among a string of dystopian novels I read in middle school, but it was so unique and memorable for its flawed heroine, hip slang, and premise.

Uglies is actually the first of a series, which includes Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras. Scott Westerfeld introduces us to a strangely seductive dystopia: Everyone in this world is subject to a complete and utter cosmetic surgery makeover when they turn sixteen. Pre-surgery children are called uglies, and post-surgery, they’re called pretties. Uglies live in dorms, impatiently waiting for their sixteenth birthday, exploring and doing daring tricks to pass the time. They’re encouraged to call each other ugly until then, using nicknames like “Fat nose” and “Squinty.” After the pretty-making surge (à la Uglies slang), the newly transformed pretties pack up to live in Prettyland, where everyone lives a luxurious life that consists of feasting, drinking, and playing, separated from the uglies. They don’t have to worry about how they’re going to afford anything, either—everything is supplied and paid for by the government, including the surgery. I’m not going to lie—I did live a little vicariously through the descriptions of the extravagant pretty life.

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12 Essential Reads for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and while we don’t believe in pigeonholing black history to just one month, we’ll happily seize this opportunity to recommend some fantastic books. Spanning from biography to history, memoir to cultural criticism, these twelve books capture the range, depth, and complexities of the African-American experience—and…
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The Heart of What It Is To Be A Teenager

I recently heard author Jason Reynolds speak at a book event in Brooklyn, promoting his new young adult novel The Boy in the Black Suit, the follow-up to last year’s When I Was the Greatest. At first I was surprised that the audience at the event was almost entirely African-American.…

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Experiencing Humiliation

As a child, I was ashamed of many things. I was ashamed of having my picture taken. However many times I practiced in front of a mirror, I couldn’t hold my gaze in front of a camera. Just before the camera snapped, I wilted. I didn’t like my smile; I…

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Revisiting Ian McEwan’s Masterpiece

“Writing stories not only involved secrecy, it gave [Briony] all the pleasures of miniaturization,” Ian McEwan writes in his 2001 novel Atonement. “A world could be made in five pages, and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiled prince could be framed within…

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Turn On Your Book Light

Novelist, poet, and essayist Elizabeth Rosner is the author of the highly acclaimed bestselling novels The Speed of Light and Blue Nude. Her newest novel, Electric City, and Gravity, a poetry collection, were both published in October 2014. Her website is www.elizabethrosner.com. The release date for my first novel, The Speed of Light,…

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So many books, so little time.

-Frank Zappa