“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 she’s been turned into one of them: 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.Image and Synopsis from Goodreads.
Woah Long Synopsis. Some minor spoilers further down, nothing too ruin-making though.
So I read Specials probably about a year after reading the first two books Uglies and Pretties and I couldn’t really remember where it left off. But true to form Westerfeld went straight into this book all guns blazing.
I loved that the book started right in the action with Tally and Shay back together again and now both Specials, the cruellest and most modified of them all, up to their usual tricks as if they were Crims again. As it all started coming back to me I remembered where Pretties left off, how terrifying the Specials were and how much Tally had not wanted to look at them, never mind be one.
I found Specials quite creepy (and riveting) in that way, as we go along with Tally on this journey knowing that her mind and body has been altered once again without her permission. She knows something is not quite right but she can’t grasp what. She’s superhuman and can do almost anything; can kill with her bare hands; she feels great and she thinks she looks great but the whole time we know that if she could just snap out of it she would see what they have done to her.
All three of the books in this series so far have been imaginative, fun reads that have obviously kept me coming back for more, but I definitely have some gripes. Tally for one. I found her pretty annoying in the first two books, always changing her mind, always doing the wrong thing-apologising-doing it again, and in Specials she’s even worse. To be fair, that’s the way she’s supposed to be as Specials, especially this new ‘breed’ called Cutters that Tally and Shay are part of are supposed to see themselves as superior to everyone else. Even the normal pretties, who have already been modified to be perfect beauties look hideous and weak to them.
Shay doesn’t get away without a slagging off either. I mean, one minute her and Tally are BFFs and then she’s telling her how self-centred she is. I mean, she is, but don’t pick and choose when to like her in that case. Maybe their relationship was supposed to demonstrate a true friendship. As in you don’t always have to agree or like each other as long as you’re there for each other. Well even so, if that’s friendship I think I’m doing it wrong.
On the up side, the whole world that Westerfeld has created in these books is totally ballsy. It’s a huge comment on how we, as humans are destroying the world, the shallowness of society and also the cost of beauty and I absolutely salute him for that. Using this sort of sci-fi – bizarro world to get that message across is pretty damn awesome. I don’t think parents would be all that pleased for their kids to read this though, with all the cutting themselves to feel clarity, starving themselves, the general lack of morals…and that’s a thought, where the hell are all the parents? The only ones we hear about are David’s, who is a rebel through and through and has never had the Pretty Surgery. Hmm.
I was rooting for David btw, I mean Zane was OK too and I liked that he loved Tally enough to take the pill at the end of Pretties but David just seemed cooler. His parents had started their own colony and were single-handedly saving the world after all.
Despite a few plot issues towards the end such as Dr Cable and the whole of Special Circumstances being bought down so easily (why had no one tried to stop them before if they were really such small fish in a big pond like they turned out to be?) and there not being enough Andrew Simpson Smith (he was hilarious – loved him), I thought Specials was a good ending to the series. Tally stayed true to form in making herself the important one right to the very end, but at least she left us with an important message: Freedom has a way of destroying things.
I don’t know why Westerfeld felt the need to write another book after this one, but I suppose I’ll have to check out Extras too, pull my arm why don’t you.
One last thing, if you liked this series you should totally watch Antiviral. Some similar themes, MUCH more creepiness AND Caleb Landry Jones is such an anti-babe. Anti-babe…I like that!
I gave Specials 4 unicorns out of 5. It is published by Simon and Schuster.
6 thoughts on “A Scary Vision of the Future: Specials by Scott Westerfeld”
Great review. Extras isn’t as good as the others in the series!
I think I kind of preferred it, well to Pretties at least. I thought the action was better! But then, it’s been a long time since I read the other two. I wished I hadn’t have swapped them now. Fail.
I’ll have to check out this series, it sounds really cool and different! 🙂 Great review!
Alice @ Alice in Readerland
Thanks! They’re definitely worth a read.