- Posted by Johanna on February 14, 2012 at 8:47 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson; art by Steven Cummings
- PUBLISHER: Del Rey; $10.99 US
I haven’t read The Uglies, the young adult prose series this graphic novel spins off from, so my first question was “will I enjoy the book without that knowledge?” The answer is yes.
The key premise, a world where everyone is made pretty via surgery at the age of 16, is explained through Shay’s narration. She’s a young rebel who hoverboards out to the wild ruins past the city, where she finds David and other teenagers who want to escape their regimented urban life. Soon, she faces a significant choice: accept the way her society works and get the operation, or be true to herself although it requires struggle and harder work.
It’s a familiar story, but an entertainingly told one, although I was surprised at how short the chapters were. (There are 23 in the fewer than 200 pages of story.) It seems I was just getting into the moment when the scene would change. Perhaps the book is better aimed at the younger reader, with a different attention span.
I also found it strange that Shay was drawn so cute (as shown here), when we’re being told she’s skinny and imperfect. That’s the point of the premise, that everyone is pretty in their own way, but it’s backed up by the polish Steven Cummings puts on all the characters. The visuals are also a feature that the graphic novel has over the text novels, being able to show us the author’s vision of his characters. There’s more about that in the short sketchbook section at the back, which presents Cummings’ design drafts with Scott Westerfeld’s comments.
My biggest problem with the book is its drawing point for series fans. When Tally, the protagonist of the novels, shows up, the story assumes we know some things a new reader won’t. Shay falls hard for her (in a platonically best friend way), and I just didn’t see the appeal. We don’t get much sense of Tally as a character, perhaps to avoid duplicating the book material, and what we do see isn’t particularly likable. Her section of the book, the last third, reads as more rushed than the pacing to that point.
The art throughout Shay’s Story is active and attractive, with Cummings taking every advantage to show us Shay’s sense of adventure. She seems to live on her hoverboard, zooming around, playing pranks, and hacking tech. It’s a fun, light-hearted read that still provokes opinions about how important appearance is and should be. (Even if it does engage in its own stereotyping about pretty people being less intelligent.)
The concluding second volume is due out within the year. You can read the first chapter online via Amazon. (The publisher provided a review copy.)