Genre: YA Dystopia


When everyone is beautiful, the world seems to get along so much better. A teen’s 16th birthday is the day where it begins, since it’s the day they finally get the operation to turn pretty. Once pretty, they get to join their friends in New Pretty Town across the river and party all day. Tally can’t wait. Being pretty is something she’s dreamed about all her life. But unfortunately for Tally, she’s one of the youngest of her year and nearly all her friends have turned pretty without her, leaving her alone. Until she meets Shay, another ugly with a late-summer birthday. Shay has some weird ideas about being pretty, but she crosses the line when she tells Tally that she wants to leave the city and stay ugly all her life. When Shay runs away, the authorities of the city aren’t happy, and they force Tally to make a choice: find and turn in her friend, or stay ugly forever.

Uglies begins with an interesting premise: when people no longer argue over physical appearance, the world can finally get along. In the city where Tally lives, it’s not just a theory—it’s put into act, and it works. Westerfeld does a wonderful job setting up and explaining the futuristic world through action and dialogue, with its own ideals, language, and culture. It’s especially interesting to watch this world through Tally’s eyes, who has a much different perspective than a 21st century reader. This is part of what made Tally’s character so interesting to me: Westerfeld wasn’t afraid to give her a twisted view of the world. In fact, she wasn’t always the “good” character that we often see in protagonists, and she would have stayed happily ignorant all her life if not for Shay. The relationship between Shay and Tally moved at a good pace and felt natural, but in my opinion the romance between Tally and David felt a bit sudden and weird from the start. In all honesty, this was a YA book where I felt a romance was not entirely necessary, especially when the intended love interest was not introduced until nearly half-way through the book. However it was not poor enough to ruin the book for me, I just didn’t have strong feelings about that relationship. Overall, Uglies had a fast-moving plot and enough action to please a YA reader. I would recommend it to readers with an interest for futuristic worlds with a dystopic twist.

Creative Writing Analysis: Writing Female Characters

There are many things I could point out about Westerfeld’s creative choices, so it was hard to decide on this one. But I think it’s important. In one semester of my creative writing class, I made a tally chart of all my classmates’ genders and compared it to the genders of their main character. This only totaled to about 36 stories (18 students, 2 stories each), but the trend was undeniably obvious. The girls in my class were about 50/50 in male versus female protagonists. As for the boys, only ONE chose to write about a female lead (and he did a great job of it, by the way). Trying to find a reason for this trend is not as easy, since it could be a few things. Do men feel they can’t relate to a female lead? Are they not interested in a female lead? Are they afraid to write a female lead? I’ve also heard claims that a male protagonist better represents mankind and the human experience, so maybe they think a female lead won’t make the deeper meaning of their story applicable on a universal level. Which is all nonsense, in my opinion.

Even though Scott Westerfeld is a man, he choose to have a female protagonist and a female best friend. The two most important characters in the book, Tally and Shay, are girls. In fact, for the first half of the book, we mainly only see girls. I’ve read a lot of books with male authors who somehow do a dreadful job with their female characters (flat, stereotyped, and a weird obsession with mentioning boobs, typically), so it was actually really enjoyable for me to see female characters done right. It is possible for men to write women correctly. In addition to reading books about women, by women, I think men can learn to write these characters in a well-rounded way simply by taking them seriously as a main character. Westerfeld also accepted that his female characters can make mistakes, be flawed, and wrong about things. They can have a distorted point of view, they can be heroes or villains. They’re honestly not much different than male characters. When you get it in your head that women are mysterious creatures and no one will ever understand them, then you’re already starting down that path to failure.

Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies. Simon Pulse. 2005. 425 p. 0-689-86538-4

So, saw Deadpool, loved it, of course.

One of the really, really refreshing parts of the movie for me though was Vanessa’s entire characterization. I mean, she got to be gross, and weird, and crude, and a little crazy. She got to be sexy without feeling over-objectified, and a bit broken without being a victim. 

I was so scared she was going to be the boring, grounded, wet-blanket counterpart to Deadpool, and I am so, so glad to be wrong. 

The Signs as Badass Girls
  • Aries:Sailor Mars, Xena, Arya Stark, Olivier Mira Armstrong, Tarene
  • Taurus:Katniss Everdeen, Mikasa Ackerman, Ellen Ripley, Michonne, Peggy Carter, Kate Beckett
  • Gemini:Buffy Summers, Sarah Connor, Jessica Jones, Sailor Mercury, Barbara Gordon
  • Cancer:Jean Grey, Sailor Moon, Carol Peletier, Astrid Hofferson, Brooke Davis
  • Leo:Daenerys Targaryen, Leeloo, Tris Prior, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Clarke Griffin
  • Virgo:Lisbeth Salander, Hermione Granger, Sun Bak, Toph Beigfong, Dana Scully
  • Libra:Sailor Venus, Éowyn, Black Widow, Nyota Uhura, Cristina Yang, Ally McBeal
  • Scorpio:Imperator Furiosa, Batwoman, Alex Vause, Beatrix Kiddo, Olivia Pope
  • Sagittarius:Princess Mononoke, Merida, Ororo Munroe, Sailor Jupiter, Korra
  • Capricorn:Brienne of Tarth, Samus Aran, Mulan, Hit-Girl, Stella Gibson, "Bones"
  • Aquarius:Lara Croft, Batgirl, Jill Valentine, Ramona Flowers, Leslie Shay, Liz Lemon
  • Pisces:Tifa Lockhart, Scavenger Rey, Faith Connors, Mindy Lahiri, Lorelai Gilmore, Bonnie Bennett

Wish list for strong female characters for future writers. I know some female characters already meet this criteria. I wish more of them would.

  • Please stop making your female hero the only female among a group of men for whatever reason. She needs other kick-ass girls on her team!! - this is a big problem in fantasy.
  • This is literally you world! Don’t make it the same old England-model. You can do anything with it! I think you can go a step above making a girl into a hero and making a world where the ratio of men and women is equal. Or maybe even skewed in favor of girls.
  • In fact, I refuse to believe that somehow your girl is the only female in the entire world you’ve created that is capable of kicking ass.
  • Or there better be a good damn reason for her to be the only female. Is she the pioneer for her gender? The trial before they allow other girls to follow her footsteps? Don’t brush over this and don’t make her a special snowflake.
  • Give her female friends. More than one. And for more reasons than to listen to your character talk about that boy that confuses her.
  • STOP making her hate other female characters, especially FEMININE female characters. JUST STOP IT. 
  • Please give her more than one female friend. I know in real life sometimes people have only one friend, but come on, this is fiction, anything is possible, right? ;)
  • If she tends to have more male friends than female friends, don’t make the reason “I’d rather hang out with guys cause there’s less drama” and have her hate other girls.
  • If it’s a fantasy world, PLEASE for the love of writing, DO NOT make all the courtiers ladies bitches who hate your character for no apparent reason or because the boy is looking at her now and not them - (we stopped writing bitchy cheerleaders! we can do this. come on!)
  • Alternatively don’t make everyone like/support your character. There are actually situations where someone can dislike you without knowing you, but chances are they’re prickly with everyone.
  • If it takes a boy for your female character for her to finally feel pretty, that’s fine, but please don’t be coy about it. Really.
  • Please make it possible for other female characters to be kick-ass in this world of yours. I mean, I know your strong female character is special  – but at least make her an inspiration to other girls!
  • No, I don’t mean her very feminine friend who faints at a sound of a door, but has a different type of “strength”: her kindness. Sure, those female characters are awesome too. But I mean make more than one warrior girl for your story.
  • Please give her something else to do aside from training, protecting, or thinking about protecting someone or something. Or you know, just make kick-assery just one small aspect of her personality, not the whole thing.
  • She shouldn’t hate other female characters unless she has a very specific reason to and it shouldn’t be: “ew, she looked at the boy I like” or “ew, she likes dresses and I like pants” “ew, she wears make-up and I’m not superficial like that” and for the love of god not “ew, I don’t know anything about her but I bet she’s a slut.” If Taylor Swift could unlearn this, so can you.
  • Or you know what, make her like that, but make her learn and grow and show that that kind of behavior is unacceptable!!

“Since founding Studio Ghibli in 1985, Miyazaki has produced a series of highly acclaimed animated movies, many of which star strong and independent girls or young women who use their wits and courage to save the day. Miyazaki’s films range from fanciful ones such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Ponyo” appropriate forvery young children to ones like “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” or “Princess Mononoke” which address darker themes such as war and environmental degradation and, as such, are more appropriate for older children and teens. His film “Spirited Away” won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, and Miyazaki was honored with a special Honorary Academy Award in 2014 for having “deeply influenced animation forever, inspiring generations of artists to work in our medium and illuminate its limitless potential.”


Beyond making easy judgments of the characters, we might ask about their role in the progression of the film. Does this character drive the plot forward? Is she more than a symbol, more than a glitch in a male story? Is her existence conceptualized outside of her male counterparts, or does she only exist in relation to her husband or boyfriend or son? Is she more than a functionary in an uncritically male story?

Here’s an exercise: if you swap the gender, does the character still essentially make sense? Does she perform actions that are not related to her womanhood? Is she a person rather than a female person? Or does her gender come before her humanity? When Angelina Jolie stepped into replace Tom Cruise as the lead in Philip Noyce’s action film “Salt,” she showed that, with a little script tinkering, genders can in fact be interchanged, even in the blockbuster realm. This gets to the heart of the issue: male characters are often the default characters, they are just characters, whereas women are female characters.

“No one has ever asked an actor, ‘You’re playing a strong-minded man…’ We assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. But a strong-minded woman is a different animal.”

- Meryl Streep

This quotation is from her 2011 interview on 60 Minutes. To watch the clip, visit (minute 9:08)

As seen on the A Mighty Girl Facebook page
[SocJus] NeoGAF sets its "progressive" shaming sights on a new female character. Miriam from IGA's "Bloodstained" (Castlevania successor) gets shamed because of "Her Gigantic Boobs". • /r/KotakuInAction
Because of this image: Which was released to show the developer's progress on shaders. But of course, the main...

Because nothing says feminism like body shaming women with large breasts.