5 Stars, Book Reviews

{REVIEW} Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials, Book 3 in the ‘Uglies’ series by Scott Westerfeld

(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction – Dystopian
Title: Specials
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Length: 372 pages
Publication: May 3rd 2011 by Simon Pulse

“Special Circumstances”: The words have sent chills down Tally’s spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor — frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally’s never been ordinary.

And now, in the third book in the series, Tally’s been turned into a Special: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out — until Tally’s offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

‘Specials’ is written in third person past tense limited with the followed character being Tally, a sixteen-year-old girl physically altered into a Special. While she isn’t telling the story herself, the narrator informs us as to what Tally thinks and feels during the events that unfold. Given the young age of the character, we are more acceptable of some her mannerisms and the way she interacts with her world.

Pacing: The pacing of this novel is fast. Each scene is utilized to build toward the plot or is heavily packed with action. Even the few breather chapters sprinkled in make sure to offer important information to further the story.

World: The world is broadened from the previous two books in order to find the New Smoke and the new developments are even richer and more tantalizing than before. This particular book  in the series is about pushing technology to the max and what it’s like to be privileged in a controlled society.

Writing: The writing is clear, concise, and sharp without losing the strange language and natural buoyancy of the terminology. Each scene is explained well enough to provide a clear image of what’s happening.

Non-Spoilered Plot: Nothing could be better for Tally. She’s a special. She’s best friends with Shay. They have a team of specials whom they run secret ops with and they’re allowed to live outside the city, but with all these privileges comes a few responsibilities: it’s time to blow the Smoke off the map for good. If only things were ever as simple as they sounded.


Character: While still only sixteen, Tally has seen and experienced enough of the world to no longer be naive or foolish. Rather, she comes to realize just what, and who, are important to her. This maturity and understanding comes in hand when Tally faces more complex scenarios than just trying to stay ‘bubbly’.

Plot: The main plot of this third novel in the series is one of both self-discovery and ‘overcoming the monster’ because in order to overcome the monster, Tally must realize who she is, what she wants, and face up to the wrongs she’s committed. And there just so happens to be quite a few Tally has to own up to.

The first one is what happened to Zane. It was her fault his brain was eaten away by the nanos and it’s because of her that, while alive, he’s crippled. Even as an ugly, a cripple stands out. And with Tally’s new enhanced eyesight she can see his flaws all too clearly, making it that much harder to own up to his frailty and her role in that. Unfortunately, she doesn’t get the chance to own up to this and make amends before a rejected brain transplant ends Zane’s life.

Though, Tally does get the chance to correct and prevent the war she started between Diego and her home town. All she has to do is tell the truth: she destroyed the armory, not Diego. But of course, Dr. Cable already knew. Not that it mattered because fear and propaganda are a perfect excuse to attack another city and start a war. What better way to take control than to destroy and re-build?

It’s only with the help of her Smokey, ex-boyfriend David that Tally is able to right her wrongs. If he hadn’t been waiting for her and offered her a cure for being Special, she never would’ve been able to inject Dr. Cable and cure the insanity from her Special mind. Thus, while Special Circumstances was trying to take down the New Smoke, it turns out the Smoke took down Special Circumstances.

Yet, because of Dr. Cable’s insane need to keep her special Specials intact, she helps Tally escape the ‘despecialization’ process. And with this gift, Tally realizes what she must do. Freedom led to expansion into the wild and over-consumption, which  led to the almost destruction of the human race. Thus, Tally has to be the force to contain the humans, to protect the wild, and remind them of what happens when they get greedy. Only then can they not repeat history.

With a combination of fast-paced action scenes, well-developed and evolving characters, a satisfying yet realistic conclusion, and a story that touches on the problems of the modern world outside the book, I leave my rating for this novel, ‘Specials’, at five stars.5tars


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