I read the Uglies trilogy in full when I was in either middle school or early high school, and to this day they’re some of my favourite dystopian novels. Without the same simplicity of concept that plagues Divergent and other dystopian YA, the Uglies trilogy spoke directly to (what I now recognize as) my dysphoria as a trans teen and the feeling of never quite fitting in – of simply speaking a different language than everybody else, and maybe, eventually, I’d catch up.
So, of course, you can imagine that when I found out that the Uglies universe was in fact still active, I grabbed the book as soon as possible. The book in question is IMPOSTORS, the first in a new trilogy from YA community pillar Scott Westerfeld, set in the same word as UGLIES a good twenty or so years later. The exploits of Tally Youngblood are the stuff of legend, the environmental quandaries that plagued the world’s politics are back in full swing, and Frey and Rafia are the twin daughters of a city’s tyrant. The thing is – nobody knows that Frey exists. From birth, she’s been raised as an ‘extra’; a body double for her sister, a safety measure and a bodyguard.
The premise alone is promising. IMPOSTORS wastes no time kicking into high gear with an explosive (and characteristically brutal) opening – an assassination attempt against Rafia, foiled by Frey – and soon after, reveals how the established charade hits a snag. Another city’s ruling family is asking for Rafia as a hostage, and instead, their father sends Frey. Rather than just guard her sister when necessary, Frey is suddenly forced into pretending to be her as a full-time job.
IMPOSTORS is just as good (if not better) writing-wise as UGLIES, and its release for a new generation of teenagers means it tackles different issues. I was happily surprised to see Frey and Rafia’s mental issues not just addressed but dwelled on as part of the plot; what kind of damage does this kind of trauma do, to everybody involved? Additionally, while UGLIES’s revolution plot had more than a touch of the idealism that most YA novels do, IMPOSTORS handles the whole concept with more complexity without sacrificing its target audience. One of my favourite parts, albeit one of the hardest ones to read, involves the use of a weapon of mass destruction.
I suppose my main criticism of IMPOSTORS is much the same as for most of the YA I read that isn’t specifically marketed as queer or diverse. There are a few characters implied to be queer in the background, but not as many as one would expect, and the idea of transness still doesn’t come up in the setting despite having the perfect set-up for it. (NB: I have not read EXTRAS, so I can’t speak for that novel, but do let me know if it fixes this.) Finally, Col is a much less sympathetic character than intended. I can see his reasons for things, and I’m not opposed to the budding romance between him and Frey, but he sometimes dips too far into being manipulative. Ultimately, it’s hard to fully understand why Frey likes him so much; it’s obvious that she does, but I don’t share her view.
Impostors is available on Scholastic (https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/books/impostors-by-scott-westerfeld/), Barnes and Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/impostors-scott-westerfeld/1127731141), and Chapters/Coles/Indigo. (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/impostors/9781338151510-item.html). Please consider buying it from one of these places and not Amazon!