So, you already know that I like Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, so I was happy to learn that he extended the trilogy and released a fourth book. I thought most people knew about it, but some bookclubbers were surprised when I mentioned it a few months ago, and I've been meaning to mention it here.
Extras takes place a few years after the first three books and is set in a modern version of Japan where citizens are valued by their fame ranking, which means Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 makes her a complete no-one with no special privileges. The publisher describes it as, "a gigantic game of American Idol where, 'Tech-head' 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. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules."
Aya is convinced that if she can kick an amazing story, her rank will rocket and she'll get the life she dreams of. In a desperate effort she joins the Sly Girls (a group of girls that avoid the media as much as possible leading many people to believe they aren't even real) and sneaks footage of their dangerous fun, and she uncovers a much bigger story than she bargained for.
I know a few teenagers out there were disappointed to learn that this wasn't another novel focused on Tally, the main character in the first three books, but I thought it was so interesting and provided some good discussion points about what makes a person famous, is fame necessarily good, and what's the difference between news and gossip. Things teenagers today should be questioning as they watch Paris Hilton parade across the news, spend time surfing myspace, and tune into TV shows like Gossip Girl.
I really enjoyed this book and after discussion with friends, I have to admit that it probably helped that I speak Japanese so I didn't stumble with any of the names or placing where the story was supposed to take place. I would still start with Uglies and work my way through the series, but don't miss Extras at the end!