Have you read Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy yet? If you haven’t, do not pass go, do not continue with this review, do not collect your free surgery and body mods once you turn sixteen. Lest I be labeled a hater, I picked up Extras next because I knew I would more than likely give it more than a few stars. What can I say, dystopian YA is my JAM.
Extras takes place a few years after the Uglies trilogy. It’s not exactly a spin-off, but it’s also not making it a quadilogy. So…a post-quel. That seems like a real word.
I’m only going to briefly retread Uglies/Pretties/Specials territory again, just to compare how Extras fits in. In the original trilogy, we’re introduced into a world where civilization as we knew it failed. Now, most people are turned into “Pretties” once they turn sixteen, which means extreme plastic surgery to be Photoshop beautiful, a life full of parties and fun-making with a bonus lobotomy for no charge. (Think soma in Brave New World.) Tally Youngblood was coming up on her birthday, then three books worth of stuff happened, and she changed the world. Now people have a choice to get lobotomies! Progress!
The society in Extras operates on a merit system. If you do good deeds for the community, you get credits. Good deeds also include being insanely popular. It’s pretty much a culture the relies completely on social media. Aya is a nobody, an “extra” (yes, just like a movie extra). Aya gets in with a group of thrill seeking girls in an attempt to kick a good story; for some reason, guerrilla journalism is a legit and lucrative way to get popular. She then discovers some troubling evidence that suggest yet again, people are trying to destroy the world. Again. Lobotomies and six pack abs didn’t solve world peace and now it looks like total social media immersion isn’t the answer either.
As far as subtly goes, Westerfeld would have had more success if he had walked up and slapped you in the face with a fish called Allegory. That doesn’t mean his message about teens growing up in an almost privacy free world isn’t spot on; one character in the book goes so far as to reassure Aya, “you still exist, even if a hovercam isn’t following you.” So people of the world, just to let you know, your food still looks delicious even if you don’t post it to Instagram with a grainy filter.