This trilogy (plus the extra book which is set in the same world, Extras, which I never got around to reading) is set in the far future. Human civilization as we know it has been destroyed by a virus that caused all the petrol to explode. Now humanity has rebuilt itself into a beautiful species. In the first book, Uglies, Tally Youngblood is excited about her upcoming 16th birthday. Finally she’ll become “pretty,” a surgical process that will physically transform her so that she is a perfect example of the human beauty ideal - giant eyes, perfectly smooth skin, amazing hair etc. Everyone has the surgery at age 16. However, a week before her birthday, Tally’s friend, Shay tells her that she doesn’t want to get the surgery. Instead she is going to run away to the Smoke, to meet her friend David. When Tally doesn’t want to leave with her, Shay gives her instructions on how to find the Smoke. Unfortunately, Uglies aren’t supposed to leave. Instead, Special Circumstances, who police the city, force Tally to go and find out where the Smoke is, and set off a receiver so Special Circumstances can find and destroy the Smoke.
Obviously, Tally's world can't be utopian (why can't we have a utopia?), so there need to be dark secrets which Tally will discover as things go along. Also, it's a trilogy, so more and more secrets will be revealed as you go through the books. I found the first book to be the strongest and the most interesting, but as a series it couldn't keep my interest. I took forever to read Specials and I found the plot fairly repetitive. However, I will say that I couldn't completely abandon the books. The end of each one hooks you into reading the next, even if it takes you forever to get through them.
On the plus side, I thought that the friendship between Shay and Tally changed and was complicated in a very real way, and I appreciated it. I also think that as soft science fiction, it can be a great introduction to a reluctant reader to a really fun genre. The writing style is easy to read and Tally has really normal teenage concerns throughout.