Digital Story Critique 8: The Uglies

For this week’s (week 10) digital story critique, I decided to step a bit outside the narrow field I have been exploring. Thanks to some of my classmates, I have opened my mind to accepting that digital stories come in many shapes, sizes, and formats. Until now, I have been focusing on personal stories that someone shares about himself. This week, I have decided to revisit a site that I discovered almost a decade ago when I was a high school librarian: Digital Booktalk.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with booktalking, it is a method that many librarians utilize to “sell” a book to their audience. When I was in library school, I learned to give booktalks to students in a school or library setting. Back in when I was actually working in a school, I stumbled uponDigital Booktalk and was fascinated by it. This site is a collection of short videos that give the basic gist of a book in an effort to encourage others to want to pick up the book and read it.

The digital booktalk I chose is The Uglies (The Uglies Trilogy – Book 1). The this is a young adult (YA) novel written by Scott Westerfield. I chose this booktalk for the following reason… First, I am a fan of post apocalyptic YA novels. Second, I have read this book so I want to see how true to the story the creator stayed. Third, I wanted to see if the booktalk made me want to read the book. Fourth, as a book set in the future, there are some interesting characteristics about the people  (think extreme features modifications) the book is centered around and I wanted to see how the creator portrayed this (implied versus actual).

For my critique, I decided to create my own criteria based on my above reasons for watching the clip.

Digital Story Evaluation Criteria
True to the book Did the creator understand the story and present an overview that was true to the full story? 8
Ability to create a desire to read the book How well did the creator intrigue it’s audience? Will the viewer want to know more about the story after watching this video clip? 8
Portrayal of the book characters Did the portrayal of characters fit with the story? Was the creator able to portray the characters in a way that gives the viewer a sense of who they are? 8
Total 24

The scores are all 8s, not because the creator didn’t do a good job, but because the subject matter is probably more complex than what a short digital booktalk can portray without access to special equipment. I think overall, the viewer is left wondering why Tally Youngblood wants to be pretty, but they might not understand what this actually means (on the surface) in the context of this book. However, the book is a commentary on our society’s obsession with beauty and youth, so in that sense, I think it piques the viewer interest.

I think overall, this was a decent attempt at getting the story across to the viewer. This is definitely a hard book to portray, since it takes place in the future. The scenes were filmed in pretty nondescript settings, probably to get around showing today’s world. However, it doesn’t give the feeling of the futuristic society that Westerfield describes. So in that sense, it did leave me lacking.

As for character portrayals, the characters that are still ugly are show in totality. The characters who have transitioned to pretty are not shown in full. This helps set the scene that there is something different about the people who have gone from being ugly to being pretty that goes beyond minimal plastic surgery.

I highly encourage everyone to explore this site. Maybe you will find a new book to read! Or fall in love again with an old favorite.

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