Specials by Scott Westerfeld
SpecialsTally Youngblood is excited. She has been recruited into the City’s Special Circumstances. Within Special Circumstances, she is in a special group, the Cutters. Her friend Shay is the leader of the Cutters. The team is assigned to find the rebels, the Smokies. The Smokies are recruiting runaways from the Cities . But Tally knows what they do to recruit the runaways. The “cure” the runaways are given puts nanos in their brains. Tally’s boyfriend Zane had his brain partially eaten by those nanos. She can’t let that happen to anyone else.
Tally’s senses have been sharpened. She has ultrastrong ceramic bones, can enhance her vision, use her sharp fingernails and pointed teeth as weapons, go without sleep and with little food, and contact her own group of Cutters through a skintenna. She is finally on a mission with the Cutters. They are infiltrating an Ugly party. They have heard that some Smokies will be there, too. This is their chance to catch the Smokies.
It’s not quite that easy. The Smokies slip away again. Tally and Shay instead visit the City. Tally wants Zane to be able to join Special Circumstances. But his brain was affected by the nanos. It will take something extra tricky for him to prove he needs to have the surgery that lets him be a Special. He is going to escape the City with some of their friends. They will meet up with the Smokies and lead Shay and Tally to the Smokies.
Specials is the conclusion of Tally’s story started in Uglies. The overall story in the first three books is superb. It shows a dystopia where all people are physically and mentally to acceptable norms. When a child turns 15, he or she is sent to the City and becomes “pretty”. They are raised knowing that physical beauty relies on symmetry and shaping of one’s features and body. The Smokies live outside the Cities. They continue to age naturally. Most of them are runaways from the Cities.
Scott Westerwood uses this group of books to remind (preach to) the young adult reader to be responsible. Their future relies on our actions now. The Cities don’t interact with each other much – this prevents disagreements leading to wars. The wilderness takes up much of the terrain – and is preserved. They are taught as young children, “Littlies”, to protect the trees and animals, not ruin them like their ancestors almost did. But these protections come at a hidden price. Tally learned that price in the first two books.
Tally has become a cyborg. She doesn’t realize it because her mind is still her own – well, mostly. Specials are trained to put the City and Special Circumstances first. Everything else is flawed and not up to standard. Tally fights her changes without realizing it. Specials aren’t supposed to care for anyone outside their group. Tally still loves Zane and wants him back in her life. That helps her work loose the bonds on her mind.
Specials falls flat in the end, though. Tally and her friends have overcome the odds. There are lost friendships and regained ones. Yet the last chapters lose momentum. Some of their tricks throughout the book are too fantastic to believe in this land of future make-believe. The messages are still there – keep independent thought, recognize beauty in all forms, save the environment, avoid war, and be true to yourself. Specials is a good book – just not quite up to the first two.