The Uglies series was originally meant to be a trilogy, but Scott Westerfeld graced us with a fourth book, Extras. Extras is set three years after the events of Specials but, unlike the other three books of the series, this book doesn’t follow Tally Youngblood. Instead, we are introduced to a fifteen year old ugly named Aya Fuse.
In Extras, the reader gets to see a very different society than the one in the original trilogy. After the mind-rain, the name for the events in Specials, residents of cities all over the world started rediscovering their lost history as well as discovering new ways to have fun and be creative. Unfortunately, this uptake in consumption of new items led to a few things within the societies changing. It is implied that these changes are all different from city to city; every city has adapted differently. Within Aya Fuse’s city, this was the start of the popularity rank; the more popular someone is, the more privileges they’re afforded. There are ways for unpopular people, extras, to earn merits to spend on items, but the best way for a person to earn something is to become popular. This creates an interesting, paparazzi dynamic within the city.
Aya Fuse is a kicker, someone who finds interesting stories to document and upload on their feed. Aya is trying to become famous, she doesn’t like her low face rank that sits just above 500 000. While hunting for another story, Aya stumbles across the Sly Girls, a clique that makes a habit of doing dangerous stunts. This clique is unusual; unlike most pretty cliques who use cliques to gain popularity, the Sly Girls do their best to remain anonymous. Aya tries to follow them to get a story, but gets caught. The Sly Girls let Aya join their ranks only after they dump her beloved hovercam, Moggle, into an underground reservoir. While out pulling stunts with the clique, they discover something unusual, a launch pad in a mountain meant to fire large cylinders of metal into the sky. Aya has no choice but to change the goal of her story. As much as the Sly Girls are an interesting topic, she needs to drop the story about this unusual discovery and inform the powers that be in her city about this potential threat. When her story drops, Aya finds herself being warned by the famous Tally Youngblood and pursued by unknown people. Tally and some of her crew join up with Aya and her friends to find the pursuers and track them back to their location. They need to find out the importance of those cylinders and if they pose any danger to the world as they know it.
Aya Fuse is an interesting character, but she is very much a product of her rank obsessed society. Throughout the book, all Aya cares about is hitting a big story that will make her popular. She goes to extreme lengths to get her stories, though she doesn’t always seem to think things through. She is more devoted to her stories and her hovercam than she is to most people. Her relationships with the few people she does really care about are realistic and dynamic. There is none of the hostility or betrayal that seemed to accompany many of Tally’s relationships. However, Aya offers a nice change of perspective on Tally Youngblood. The reader gets to see how other characters see Tally; she is a predator. Tally is calculating, dangerous, and flat out hostile at times.
Scott Westerfeld seems to hold dear the concept that people are the product of their environment. Extras shows an interesting paparazzi style society with a fame oriented main character. It is a good book, but I enjoyed it a little less than the main trilogy.