On the Uglies series

Conformity by Design

By Linda Gerber

Several years ago I lived in Tokyo, where I volunteered at our international school’s library. It came to my attention that a book called Uglies was getting checked out. A lot. Once I tuned in to the title, I began to notice girls in the halls asking their friends if they’d read it yet. Naturally, my interest was piqued. I’m a book lover and always open to recommendations so, like a good little lemming, I put my name on the reserve list. When that wasn’t fast enough, I ordered my own copy from Kinokuniya, one of the few bookstores in Tokyo to carry foreign titles.

At long last I got my hands on the book and quickly understood what the hype was about. I was sucked right into Tally’s world and, living in Japan as I was at the time, understood a little too well the pressure she felt to be like everyone else. Conformity was also the rule in Japan, and I knew from experience the downsides of that rule.

The citizens of Tally’s world are carefully programmed to accept a predetermined reality, their lives laid out in a pattern they are conditioned not to question. They move from littlies to school-housed uglies to partying pretties and finally to crumblies with no need to ponder the next step–or to think for themselves. Though Tally’s society takes it to an extreme, I saw the same sort of indoctrinated pattern among my Japanese friends. They would study themselves dead from preschool  …

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