Extras: A book review

Extras (Uglies, #4)

Book: Extras (Uglies #4)
Author/Authoress:Scott Westerfeld

Cover:2/5

I know most people love Scott’s cover but fro some reason I just don’t. Maybe it’s because they offer so little information about the book or maybe it’s because I just find the half-face view of pretty girls boring.  Whatever it is, I have to say ‘No’ to the cover.

Characters: 3/5

I know Scott wanted to create a character who was believable and imperfect but Aya Fuse is almost identical to what Tally Youngblood was like in Uglies. Though she’s not as much of a rule breaker (that lasted for what, 20 pages?) as Scott’s previous heroine, she is pretty obsessed with achieving fame just like Tally was obsessed with becoming ‘pretty’.  She’s willing to do anything to do so. Even betray her friends by selling them out. By the middle of the story she feels remorse an starts second guessing her plan. So who am I talking about? Tally Yongbood or Aya Fuse? Even I couldn’t tell. Would it have killed Scott Westerfeld to make his MC’s more unique? Then by some rare occurence they betray their friends (although their friends don’t feel that way) and end up getting their fame/beauty anyways. Aya’s self absorbed, manipulative and petty to say the least.

The love interest is pretty cool though. His name is Frizz and he’s gotten a brain lesion to prevent him from lying-at all. He has to say what he thinks and he can’t even ‘truth-slant’. His reason for doing so make him more personable and human. Even though he can’t even say white lies ( A tip for Aya- don’t ask him if a dress makes you look fat), he manages to be sweet and charming throughout the whole time. Sometimes his need to speak the truth adds a bit of comic relief to the story.

Hiro is Aya’s elder brother and their relationship is amazing. Aya calls him a snob often (pot meet kettle) but he’s always’s willing to give her advice (even if it’s bad advice). He teases Aya mercilessly but is still the awesome over-protective brother that every girl has wanted some time in her life (I still do!)

Ren is Hiro’s best friend and he seems to have a limited role in this book. Initially, I thought he had a crush on Aya but alas, it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the book. He seems to exist for te sole purpose of helping with hovercams and he doesn’t say much either (Scott says this is because he speaks Japanese, not english). Yet he still goes on the adventure with the whole crew.

Tally, Shay and David (the cast from the previous books) seem so different from what they seemed to be in the previous books. Tally’s unstable,angry and hard to relate to. A lot of people said that they hated Tally’s portrayal in Extra’s and that it was not at all true to her character but I disagree. I think she’s intentionally portrayed that way. How we view ourselves is sometimes completely different from how others view us.

The other characters are just background characters. I mena, they literally seem to sink into the background. Half the time, I almost forgot they were there at all.


Plot:  4/5
(Taken from goodreads.com)
It’s a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. “Tech-heads” flaunt their latest gadgets, “kickers” spread gossip and trends, and “surge monkeys” are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it’s all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of “American Idol.” Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.

As if being fifteen doesn’t suck enough, Aya Fuse’s rank of 451,369 is so low, she’s a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn’t care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself.

Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity…and extreme danger. A world she’s not prepared for.

I liked the premise of this story better than the Uglies one. Is there something wrong with me if I find a fame-driven society more interesting than one in which everyone’s pretty? I don’t think so. But the same pitfalls which were present in Uglies, Pretties and Specials were here too. The main characters are so similar (more under Characters) that I want to bash my head in after reading about them.

The fame-driven society was pure genius n Scot’s part but the plot above is a little misleading. Aya <u> does </u> care about being extra. She does everything she can to stop being an extra. She befriends the Sly Girls and secretly films them- not because she wants to show the world how cool they are but because she wants to become famous.

Romance: 2/5

Yep, another insta-love. It’s made worse by the fact that the guy’s a stalker and always seems to see the girl at her worst moments but loves her anyways. But on the plus-side, she doesn’t need him to save her and he’s radically honest. I find the radical honesty cringe-worthy and cheesy at times but most of the time it actually helps the plot quite a bit.

World Building: 5/5

One very cool thing was that the city decides to award resources to people based on their reputation/fame. This is done by everybody being given their own feed (think, blog!) once .  Every-time someone’s feed is watched, or name is mentioned, their rank is improved and they’re allowed more luxuries. This creates an unequally balanced society in which the people with the highest ranks get huge mansions, amazing clothes, cool gadgets and generally, a much easier life. The rank is called your “face.”. Face ranks of a couple hundred thousand (like Aya’s at the beginning of the book)  mean that you’re practically a nobody while face ranks of twenty-thousand are pretty good. Face ranks in the 1000 are great while a face rank in the top hundred is  so high it’s practically unattainable. People can also gain “merits” by doing good deeds, like finish homework on time, working hard, volunteering to babysit,etc. One thing I didn’t understand was how citizens of the city no longer required merits after they got a high face rank. Does having a high face rank automatically entail you get a large number of merits in the same way that celebrities are entitled to huge amounts of money?

If there’s one thing I don’t begrudge Scott for keeping the same, it’s the gadgetry. As for the new gadgets, I loved Moggle (He’s not just a camera; he’s a real character!) and the terms kickers and surge-monkeys are illustrated so well. I love the concept of hover boards running on solar power and requiring metal deposits to work. The Japanese theme for the city works really well. Paper Crane chains, Cherry blossoms and the respectful chan’s and sen’s for people with a high rank- I loved it all. Maybe it’s a kiddie-pool version of real japanese culture, but it fit the mould this book was trying to create just like the entertainment did. The entertainment in the city is still as shallow and frivolous as ever, but that’s the whole point anyways.
Scott keeps inserting  a few minor details here and there (like Nana’s birthday party in which she invites the top 1000 faces) I’m almost certain this is what  prevents this part of the book from feeling repetitive and keeps it so fun to read.
Well if you go back and count how many times I used the word love, I’m sure you won’t be surprised that the World Building gets a solid 4 on 5.

Writing:
Scott’s style is fun and breezy to read. I guess that’s what made me never give up on either of the four books in the series. His innovative terms like vex-making, fun-making are very ‘bubbly’.

Plotholes:1/5

Major spoilers here-I think the most major pitfall in the story was the lack of villain? What, no villain? How can you have a story like that?  In the end, the character whom we thought was a villain turns out to be the good guy. How can you have a story without a villain? It’s like having a cheesecake without cheese or a unicorn without a horn. It’s all wrong because SOMETHING is missing.  I haven’t even heard of a story without a villain ever since my  preschool days where Barney and Telletubbies (did I spell that right?) were all about sunshine, rainbows and frolicking little bunnies. If there’s no villainous character, then there has to be a villainous system or something. A protagonist and not antoganist a book does not make.  Rant end’s here but beware, the spoilers don’t.

Also (this is a classic Scott Westerfeld mistake) why is it that the heroine gets the best of two worlds? She gets fame, and hey! bonus points, she doesn’t even have to betray her friends. It’s unfair because in real life, stuff doesn’t happen like this. Plots to destroy your city never magically appear when you’re just searching for a reason to publish a video about your friends without their permission (completely violating their rights to privacy). And plots of evil people who plan to destroy the world do not get magically replaced with harmless earth-loving freaks who are planning to save the planet. It just doesn’t happen! End of spoilers.

The fluctuating language barrier was also a cause of distress for me. At points, it seems almost insurmountable but then dialogue between the english-speaking and japanese-speaking characters happens so freely and easily. It comes back up towards the end when speaking becomes a must.

Overall Rating:2.5

I think I would have liked this book better if I hadn’t read Uglies, Pretties and Specials. Other than the constant references to the ‘mind rain’, this book can stand alone pretty well. But since I had read the previous three in the series, I felt kind of ripped off; I felt like Westerfeld had copied a lot from his previous books without adding anything new to the formula. This is an interesting read if you haven’t read the first books in the series and if you never plan too (because I can imagine getting the whole copped out feeling  goes both ways). So for the first (and hopefully the last) time ever, I’m gonna recommend the last book in the series to you <u>first</u>.

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