Filed under: News, Reviews, Contests | Tags: Aya Fuse, Extras, hoverboard, Japan, Pretties, Scott Westerfeld, Specials, Tally Youngblood, Uglies
BOOK REVIEW :: BY CARRIE ROLLWAGEN
Extras is Scott Westerfeld’s story of Aya Fuse, a teenager living in post-Pretties Japan. In this addition to Westerfeld’s series, mind-altering surgeries that had made the global community safe but stupid have been abolished, and the city infrastructure has adapted into a reputation-based society. There’s no such thing as money—the currency of this society is popularity.
Citizens achieve popularity—or try to, anyway—by creating feeds. The feeds can detail the minutia of everyday life, or they can mock others, or they can be more like straight-up journalism. They’re basically a hybrid of blogs and YouTube.
In Aya’s Japan, when lots of people follow your feed, or even mention your name, you get famous. Then you get rich. Sound familiar? In a world where a famous—even notorious—face can get you anything from a starring role in a TV show to a million dollar book deal, I think we can relate.
Aya is a kicker, which is sort of like a blogger, who’s looking for her big story. She finds it in a group of X Games style hoverboarders, but the path to popularity isn’t as smooth as Aya had hoped. She has to choose between kicking the story and betraying her friends, between lying to her boyfriend and losing him, between saving face and saving the world. It’s all set against a backdrop of terrorist conservationists, honesty cults, elective neurosurgery, and zero gravity. Oh, and there’s a love story, too.
Extras is marketed as the fourth book in a trilogy (that’s not a typo), but these characters are brand-new, so following the story is easy, even without reading the rest of the series. The other books are certainly worth reading, though: I loved Pretties and Uglies (although I didn’t get into Specials quite as much).
Westerfeld’s grasp on the motivations that drive our society (beauty and popularity, in this series) is impressive. He explores the possible implications and exploitations of desires that are particularly attractive to a YA audience, but that apply to everyone in our youth/looks/fame-obsessed culture, but he’s far from judgmental.
He rejects black-and-white morality and writes about the gray area, but he paints it in vivid, neon colors that catch our interest and force us to pay attention, both to the moral dilemmas in Aya’s world, and to those in our own.
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