Duckling Ugly

Duckling Ugly

3.4 5
by Neal Shusterman

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Cara is so ugly, mirrors would rather break than show her reflection. Not even her own parents can deny her ugliness, and nothing can make up for the cruelty of her schoolmates. Tormented and tortured by the shallow people of Flock’s Rest, Cara’s life is miserable. Then Cara receives a shimmering note from some exotic place suggesting that there’s


Cara is so ugly, mirrors would rather break than show her reflection. Not even her own parents can deny her ugliness, and nothing can make up for the cruelty of her schoolmates. Tormented and tortured by the shallow people of Flock’s Rest, Cara’s life is miserable. Then Cara receives a shimmering note from some exotic place suggesting that there’s more to her than meets the eye. Cara wonders if her destiny has something to do with her recurring dreams of a beautiful green valley where the people are so accepting, her ugliness doesn’t matter. Soon, Cara discovers that her valley of dreams is real. It’s a place where the ugliest of ducklings can become swans. A swan, however, can have a serious taste for revenge . . . deadly revenge.

Editorial Reviews

In this third entry in Shusterman's Dark Fusion series, Cara DeFido is so grotesque she cannot look into mirrors without breaking them. Because of her "ugularity," Cara is the biggest outcast at Flock's Nest High School and is dubbed the Flock's Nest Monster. Cara has no friends, roams cemeteries at night, and sleepwalks. Cara runs away after her father bribes a classmate to take her to the dance. She ends up in a community where everyone is stunningly beautiful. They welcome her and give her a magic elixir that makes her beautiful too. For the first time, Cara fits in. She goes back to Flock's Nest to say goodbye, but when she gets there, she realizes that she wants revenge. As in Dread Locks (Dutton, 2005/VOYA June 2005) and Red Rider's Hood (2005/VOYA October 2005), this novel fuses fairy tale with mythology and legend. It has threads of the ugly duckling story and the legend of the fountain of youth. This twisted fairy tale is quite dark and does not have a happy ending. Readers will learn the valuable lesson that beauty is only skin deep. After Cara becomes beautiful, the irony is that everyone still hates her. This fast-paced book is great for both avid and reluctant readers. Readers do not have to be familiar with the other titles in the series to follow Cara's story. Give it to fans of horror and mythology and fairy-tale retellings. It is a recommended purchase for public and school libraries serving middle and high school students. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Dutton, 224p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Sarah Cofer
Children's Literature
No two ways about it, sixteen-year-old Cara DeFido is mirror-breaking ugly. Literally. After her latest unbearable humiliation, Flock's Rest's Monster runs away in search of the Nowhere Land of her dreams. She finds the Shangri-la of De Leon, is accepted and beautified, but opts out of utopia for revenge. In the world of Neal Shusterman's "Dark Fusion" series of updated fairy tales, this is a distinct mistake. His gothic-modern retelling of "The Ugly Duckling" gives Shusterman ample opportunity to have great fun with references to Lost Horizon, the mythical Fountain of Youth, and above all, words. Smirk at the "Fido" reference, but note that Cara's expertise is spelling, in all its connotations. Like the rest of his series, Shusterman ends this story on a fatalistic, cautionary note. I am not sure what Hans Christian Andersen would have thought, but Shusterman's take is clever as always. 2006, Dutton, Ages 10 to 14.
—Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-This third book in the series stars Cara De Fido, who is so ugly that her reflection breaks mirrors. She's a champion speller but even that accomplishment is spoiled after she's tricked into spelling words like "grotesque" and "abomination" at a spelling bee. She suffers from a type of sleepwalking she calls "sleep standing" because she doesn't move. In this state, Cara dreams of a handsome boy in a beautiful green valley. She befriends the town's other outcast, an old lady who lives in the cemetery, who tells her that she has a destiny that she must search for. After a guy she likes betrays her, she runs away to find her dream place. There, the inhabitants hold the secret to everlasting beauty. Cara longs to be one of the beautiful people, but she can't forget those she left behind. She goes back but not before being warned that she can only stay away for a short time or she will find that there are "worse things than being ugly." By returning, she makes a decision that she knows is wrong but that she can't help and, as a result, she creates "a world of suffering." While not as richly written as the fairy-tale retellings by Donna Jo Napoli or Robin McKinley, Shusterman has created his own dark, edgy, and suspenseful tale that cleverly borrows from such classics as the "The Ugly Ducking," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Beauty and the Beast."-Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
For the third entry in his Dark Fusion series, Shusterman gives another familiar tale both a contemporary setting (with some magic thrown in) and an ingenious, eerie twist. Cara De Fido, unfortunate in more than just name, is so hideously plain that her face literally shatters mirrors and camera lenses-her cruel, jeering peers in the town of Flock's Rest dub her the "Flock's Rest Monster." Her simmering resentment comes to a boil after a mysterious note sends her out into the hills in a storm; she wakes up in a beautiful valley, amid beautiful people who are guarding the veritable Fountain of Youth. With one splash, Cara is transformed-and eager to go back to Flock's Rest on a table-turning expedition. Her beauty comes at a steeper cost than she imagines, however. Shusterman takes some shortcuts, but only in service to the story, and in casting Cara with believable mixes of toughness and vulnerability, of spite and good sense, he sets her up as a (sort of) sympathetic figure. Nicely disquieting. (Fantasy. 12-15)
From the Publisher
Undeniably captivating. (Booklist)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Dark Fusion Series , #2
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
441 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Undeniably captivating. (Booklist)

Meet the Author

Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author and screenwriter.  He lives in Southern California with his four children.

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Duckling Ugly (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NoahJ More than 1 year ago
The main character is named Cara and she is very ugly. Mirrors break whenever she looks into them. People are always mean to her and call her names and really bring her down. One day, she gets a letter in the mail that says "find the answers." She was able to rearrange the letters to say "Where fins stand." She kept this letter with her, but she never knew entirely what it meant. A few days later, she comes home to find the most popular guy in school at her house talking to her dad. To Cara's surprise, he asks her to prom. She finds this too good to be true, because normally he is very mean to her. After much consideration, she decides to go to prom with him. Little does she know, it ended up that he only asked her because her dad offered him a car. She was so upset when she found this out that she just started going Northwest. Eventually, she runs into a sign of her dad and his car dealership that says "Where fins stand." Thats when she goes blank and falls asleep. Before she knows it, she ends up in a beautiful land where nobody knows about. There, a fountain is contained that made her beautiful! She goes back to her hometown and goes to school and nobody recognizes her. But, before she knows it she is turning everybody ugly! She decided that it isn't worth staying for so she goes back to the beautiful land. But when she gets there nobody is there! She finds a letter from on of the residents saying that they have left and that she must find them. I liked how this book is unique and that I have never read a book anything like it. I didn't like how it got boring. I would recommend this book to most people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Neal Shusterman's latest `Dark Fusion' fantasy Duckling Ugly continues his series which takes a classic fairy tale's fantasy and provides a contemporary twist. Cara is ugly ¿ even her own parents can't deny it ¿ and her schoolmates are cruel. When she receives a mysterious note suggesting she's destined for greater things, even the wise woman of the town warns her destiny may be extraordinary. Does it have anything to do with the handsome boy she's been dreaming of? A fine leisure choices.