- Alternate Character Interpretation: One essay in the companion book Mind-Rain paints Shay as a Psycho Lesbian. And another essay portrays her as a Draco in Leather Pants.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: To start with, the world is a post-apocalyptic collection of city-states with shady ideologies and government-mandated shaming and brainwashing programs, most people are shallow, self-absorbed idiots by design, an increasingly ambiguous protagonist that regularly ends up betraying her friends through circumstances outside of her control, and both heroines increasingly suffer tragedy, bouts of plot-relevant Aesop Amnesia that reset their characters back to square one, and a villain that conspires to get what she wants, time after time. This does, thankfully, ease up a bit by the end of Specials, and the sequels that follow are more optimistic. in tone.
- Les Yay: Shay gets awfully jealous whenever Tally gets a boyfriend. This arguably becomes Foe Yay later on as Shay becomes more and more villainous. Somewhat intentional; the author purposely used gender-neutral terms when Shay asks Tally where she got her locket in Uglies.
- Moe: All young Pretties have to look young and vulnerable. Tally lampshades that when Dr. Cable corners her, since a normal Pretty would be scampering away like a rabbit.
- Moral Event Horizon: Dr. Cable crosses it in Uglies when she kills Az while attempting to operate on his brain in the hopes of removing his memories as well as adding lesions. To make it clear she's the antagonist in Specials, she hides evidence that Tally and Shay accidentally destroyed a museum to have an excuse to declare war on Diego for housing the runaway uglies, and then imprisons Tally when she returns home to confess.
- Narm: The fact that Shay took the time to write her cryptic directions to the Smoke for Tally in rhyme before running away. It's not a case of the poem being a mnemonic device passed down between fugitives to the Smoke; it refers to details that are personal to Tally, showing that Shay wrote the poem herself.
- Older Than They Think: A new reader picking this up might dismiss this as a The Hunger Games or Divergent clone - except it was written three to five years prior.
- Tear Jerker: Zane's death.
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: It's really hard to hate Shay when you consider that she has legitimate reasons to act villainous. Trusting your best friend with all your secrets only for her to steal your boyfriend, destroy your home, get you kidnapped and have a mind-warping chip put in your brain must really suck. This was Scott Westerfeld's intention, to show that Tally and Shay could never really be "best friends forever" as Shay creepily puts it at the end of Pretties. Although Tally isn't completely to blame, as Shay's Story points out, they still end up at odds from the trilogy's beginning to end.
- Vindicated by History: Of a sort - While Uglies was never a flop so to speak, it was a rather uncommon find in bookstores prior to The Hunger Games, which enabled Uglies to get another chance because people would recommend this to other teens and adults who were fans of Hunger Games.
- The Woobie:
- Tally Youngblood. She wants to become Pretty so she can hang out with her friend Peris again, and grow up. Then she gets blackmailed into being The Mole for Dr. Cable, only to learn that the pretty operation makes people brain-damaged with lesions and thus isn't all that is cracked up to be. Her impulsiveness to destroy Cable's locket ends up betraying the Smoke, and leads to her crush's dad dying.
- Shay. Her attempts to help Tally explore a lifestyle that doesn't rely on being pretty backfire badly. Due to leaving hints for Tally to find the Smoke, she loses her home, her boyfriend and her free will. Then when Tally reveals that she has a cure, Shay is understandably upset about it and starts cutting herself to get the same high. No one, least of all Tally, blames her for becoming Special. Then, she gets cured, which causes her to have a Heel Realization.
- David. Unlike Tally and Shay, he's grown up without the Pretty culture to accept or reject. The girl he likes turns out to be The Mole for that culture, though she switches sides, and destroys his home by accident. He keeps forgiving her but she keeps turning him away.
- Zane. Losing the girl that you love to Mind Control and when she starts to come around and love you back, you wind up dying. This is after you have had part of your brain chewed away by nanotechnology.
- Peris. Losing his Childhood Friend as well as his friendship with Fausto and being too cowardly to runaway from the city because he has brain damage. Also, Zane who is another friend of his, winds up dying.
- Maddy. Having your sons girlfriend be responsible for the death of your husband and his father and your attempts to keep your son away from her only result in you pushing him away.
- Andrew Simpson Smith. Discovering that your entire life is a science experiment done by a cruel and uncaring government. Also, having your father murdered by a rival tribe and seeking revenge.
- A noticeable aversion to this trope is Dr. Cable, who is the only character who is NOT a Woobie in some regard.Even though she is cured in the end and possibly faced public embarrassment and possibly lost her job, that hardly seems like a fair punishment considering that she gets to keep one of her Specials alive and was responsible for the misery of every other character. Not to mention manipulating her city into starting a war with another city that couldve resulted in the death of millions and wouldve gotten her promoted. Tally stopped her, but still her plan almost worked. If Dr. Cable wasnt in the story, NONE of the previously mentioned characters would be Woobies.
YMMV / Uglies