In a far off dystopian future where everyone is considered hideously ugly until they have extensive cosmetic surgery at the age of 16 and no one bothers to ever leave the cities, not everything is as rosy as the ruling leaders would like the citizens to believe. Tally Youngblood has been anxiously awaiting turning Pretty ever since her best friend turned. But in the final months before her birthday, she meets up with Shay, who isn't sure she wants to turn Pretty at all. They bond over pulling pranks, but Tally doesn't even truly consider Shay's stance until Shay disappears on their shared birthday and Tally is picked up by the evil and manipulative Dr. Cable.
The rulers-that-be threaten Tally with everlasting Ugliness if she doesn't find Shay and the community of non-Pretty rebels who live out in the wilds beyond the city. With no real choice and encouragement from her parents and friends, Tally sets off with only a cryptic note left by Shay to guide her. Against all odds she actually makes it to the Smoke, the 'city' established by the non-Prettys.
Soon Tally is torn does she activate the pendant given her by Dr. Cable and turn in the people who accepted her and took her in (especially their leader, David, who falls hard and fast for Tally and she for him) or does she give up her youthful dreams of turning Pretty and stay in the Smoke? Her love for David and a conversation with his parents about what else happens to you when you turn Pretty (which explained to me how everyone turning Pretty also turned into vacuous partygoers with no thoughts to fill their Pretty heads) decides Tally and she destroys the homing device.
That inadvertently leads to the utter destruction of the Smoke, as Dr. Cable planned for every contingency. At novel's end, there are few rebels left, Shay has turned stupid and Pretty, and David learns the truth about Tally's role in their current situation. There's a lot more than that, but I feel like I've already given enough away (though there's so much more). This is a novel to make you think about personal choice and responsibility, honor, trust, right and wrong. There's also action, drama, intrigue and love. What more could you ask for?
I recommend this novel for ages 12 and up and for readers of any age that want a thought-provoking read. Now, I'm just waiting for Pretties, the second novel, to come out.