Fifteen year old Aya Fuse is ordinary. Like Tally Youngblood at the beginning of Uglies, she craves transformation and a life more glamorous than her mundane existence in the dorms.
But Aya's world is quite a different one from that which we explored in the Uglies trilogy. Since Extras takes place a few years after the events at the end of Specials, what we get this time round is a world quite distinct from the one we explored in previous instalments, but that definitely has its roots in the society that Tally grew up in. Aya's world is run on the 'reputation economy': aside from those who do essential jobs, citizens purchase material goods with credits directly linked to their 'face ranking' or popularity. This means that most people will do anything to stand out, making Aya's city - which seems to be located in a far-future version of Asia - a vibrant and diverse one that will also resonate with readers in today's celebrity-obsessed, online-networking savvy culture.
Fans of the Uglies trilogy will no doubt be pleased to hear that Extras also gives us plenty in the way of mind-blowing futuristic technology. Hoverboards make a reappearance, and Aya has both an eyescreen (with which to check her face ranking and pick up messages) and a personal hovercam (to pick up any hot stories to post on her feed) that's been modded to the point that it almost seems like a character in itself. As ever, Westerfeld combines mind-boggling sci-fi world-building with characters who are dealing with similar pressures to many of today's teenagers.
Like Tally before her, wannabe Aya has a lesson to learn in this futuristic world. When she gets wind of the 'Sly Girls', a clique who perform dangerous tricks, she thinks it sounds exactly like the kind of story she can 'kick' on her feed to increase her face ranking. But after lying to the publicity-phobic clique about her true intentions, Aya stumbles across a far bigger mystery that might just put the whole of her city at risk. And so begins a tale packed with head-spinning high-speed chases, tricky hoverboard stunts and pure adrenalin. There's even an appearance from Tally and Shay, back to save the world again in spectacular style.
Extras is a gripping addition to the Uglies trilogy, with a brand new main character worthy of Tally Youngblood's legacy. It's proof that although you can sometimes have too much of a good thing, if it's a really good thing you can always make room for a little more. In my opinion, it's the strongest in the series since Uglies itself: a smart, breathtakingly-paced page-turner of a novel that gives us food for thought about the way online networking is changing our lives. Awesome.
Many thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for providing a review copy of the gorgeous restyled Extras paperback.