“Specials” by Scott Westerfeld

Warning, this review contains spoilers for “Uglies” and “Pretties” by Scott Westerfeld!

This book is good. My gosh is this book good.

Specials is the third book in the Uglies trilogy, after “Uglies” the first instalment, and “Pretties”, the second. I was expecting Specials to be good, but my gosh I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. Uglies was brilliant, completely riveting, I literally couldn’t put it down before I was finished. Pretties wasn’t nearly as good as Uglies, but it was readable, and it definitely wasn’t bad. So I was expecting Specials to be much of the same, but I was wrong. I was so wrong.

It wasn’t as good as Uglies, but it was brilliant.

I don’t know how many plot twists can fit into a single book, I really don’t.

Ok, for those who don’t know anything about the Uglies world, here’s a bit of background:

Basically, Uglies is set in the future, in a world where all oil based substances have been destroyed by a virus. As have most of the world’s population. But that happened a few hundred years ago, and in the present the world is split up into smaller cities, and all areas outside of the cities have been allowed to grow untamed, and so they’re the Wilds. The new society is definitely a changed one, marked by a series of operations.

Up to the age of sixteen, you are an “Ugly”, which is what we would call a normal person. When you reach the age of sixteen, you undergo an operation which turns you from an Ugly to a “Pretty”. Pretties are physically changed to make the look perfect, but what most people don’t know is that the pretty operation places “Lesions” in your brain to make you peaceful and compliant, or “bubbleheaded”. The Pretties and The Uglies are kept separate.

Then there are also the Specials, who are used as a kind of special police force for the city. They’re operated on to become frighteningly beautiful, amazingly strong and breathtakingly fast. Basically, they’re human weapons.

So that’s the society. Personally, I think I’d hate to live there, but from the way their society describes ours, “The Rusties” we’re pretty bad as well…

This trilogy follows Tally Youngblood, who started out as a rebellious Ugly in “Uglies” escaping Uglyville after her friend Shay to the Smoke (where people who rebel against the system escape to), destroying the Smoke (by accident) and saving a few Smokies. And fighting with Shay, who at the end of the book is a Pretty. Tally gave herself up in the end to the city to be turned into a Pretty, so that the Smokies would have a willing volunteer to test their “Pretty cure” on. Except in “Pretties” she kind of likes being a pretty. That is until she finds out a way to stay “bubbly” (i.e. clear-thinking) and her and her boyfriend Zane take the cure (two pills, one pill each) and eventually escape New Pretty Town to the New Smoke. Not before arguing with Shay, who now self-harms to feel bubbly. Except of course, it doesn’t quite go to plan. Turns out Zane took the pill that eats away at your brain, while Tally took the pill that stops the brain eating pill. So he’s almost a vegetable, and Tally cured herself. Oh and Zane had a tracker in his tooth so he led the city to the New Smoke. The Smokies got away, but Tally stayed with Zane, and gets turned into a Special by Shay, who is also a special. It’s pretty eventful…

So onto Specials. Tally is a Special now. I for one was shocked when that happened. She’s part of the “Cutters” gang of Specials, which is morbidly self-explanatory. She’s also back friends with Shay, but let’s be honest, how long is that going to last? She’s tasked with finding and destroying the New Smoke, but all the Smokies she and the rest of the cutters manage to find seem to be equipped with really advanced technology. Which they shouldn’t have, being forest dwellers. So that’s a bit suspicious. There’re some complications with Zane, some questions about what the Special operation REALLY does, and some unexpected revelations about the rest of the world…

Tally is the same infuriating brilliant character as she always has been. Shay is still half in the wrong, half in the right (in my opinion anyway) and Zane gets treated rather unfairly, by Tally and Westerfeld both. David doesn’t really get much of a look in until the end, as does Dr Cable, who in the end really ended up surprising me, in more ways than one. We also revisit a few old friends, such as Andrew Simpson Smith, and Peris to name a few…

We learn a lot more about what’s happening outside Tally’s city, which we haven’t really heard anything about in the previous two instalments. It’s actually really interesting, because it turns out that the other cities aren’t exactly the same. In fact, a lot of the other cities are very much against the actions of Tally’s city. As you can imagine, they’re especially against the antics of Dr Cable, and her human weapons – the Specials. All of which leads to some very interesting reading.

All in all, I’d give Specials 4/5 stars, because it was genuinely excellent, and I really enjoyed reading it!


2 thoughts on ““Specials” by Scott Westerfeld

  1. Hmm. I sent Uglies along to uni with Daughter. She went out and bought the other three books herself.
    So they are available, should I somehow end up with lots of spare time.

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