Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review: Extras by Scott Westerfeld

WARNING: The contents of this review may give away some of the major plotlines within the series. Do not continue reading if you want to be pleasantly surprised by the book.

Extras - Scott Westerfeld

It has been several years since Tally Youngblood brought down the social segregation system that divided uglies, pretties and specials.
Now, people live in a society that is no longer governed by strict regulations that force everybody to be ‘brain-missing’. Instead, people are embracing their individuality- taking on crazy surgery and trends in order to be the person that stands out the most amongst their peers.
Although Aya Fuse is only fifteen years old, she, too, wishes to raise her popularity rank and become famous. With a rank numbering just under 500,000, Aya is considered a nobody- or extra- by the rich and famous. She dreams of becoming a famous kicker (a type of amateur journalist), and in a city where the main currency is popularity (which can buy you anything you desire), Aya has great aspirations to find a story that will propel her to stardom. Although she has kicked many small stories, along with her faithful hovercam Moggle, Aya just hasn’t been able to get her big break.
That is, of course, until she meets the Sly Girls- a group of extras whose main aim is to pull crazy stunts but remain anonymous. Long considered an urban myth, the mystery surrounding the clique would be enough to boost her rank significantly. But then Aya and the girls uncover a secret that could change the course of history and put all of them in danger.
In her eagerness to kick the biggest story of the millennium, Aya could soon become more famous than she ever imagined possible. But will her story also put the world, as she knows it, at risk?

What I gained from reading this book:
This novel is all about fame, celebrity, and society’s perceptions of self-worth. Aya is only fifteen years old, but she aspires to be in the top one thousand people of her city- a difficult feat considering that at the start of the novel, she is ranked at the lowly number of 451, 369. Her city, which awards its citizens according to their popularity in society, creates a different type of hierarchy to the uglies/pretties/specials system, which separated the ‘elite’ from the ‘non elite’. But in reality, this system is not much better, as it incites people to go to extremes in order to boost their popularity. This is obvious through people’s behaviour, especially when they undergo surgery in order to look as ‘out there’ as humanly possible. The kickers also go to extreme lengths to find crazy stories, hoping that they will be able to make a name for themselves in their ever-competitive society. Through the introduction of characters like the Sly Girls, the author highlights the absurdity of fame, and shows that that you don’t need to have a high status in society to be worthy of attention from your peers.

Because Aya never experienced the brain lesions, and has only learnt about them at school, it means that a new perspective is thrown on the events of the previous novels. Adding to that is the fact that she is Japanese, and therefore not even of the same culture as Tally Youngblood. This means that readers are able to see how Tally’s actions have spread across the world, and allows them to see how each country has reacted to these changes.

People who are expecting this novel to be similar in style to the previous three books may be slightly disappointed. Although Extras is considered part of the series, and features some of the characters from the other books, it also has its differences. Aya’s story is nothing like Tally’s- it is more about Aya’s quest to kick a fabulous story and join the social elite, rather than forge her own individuality, as Tally’s was.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Genre: Teenage Fiction

Recommended for: People who are eager to read the fourth book in the ‘trilogy’, and find out about how life changed after Tally’s exploits.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:


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