Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

WARNING: The contents of this review may give away some of the major plotlines within the series. Do not continue reading if you want to be pleasantly surprised by the book.

Specials - Scott Westerfeld

Tally Youngblood has become one of the creatures she most feared as an ugly and a pretty- she is now a special.
Biologically enhanced so that her senses are superior and her reflexes amazingly fast, Tally’s body is now streamlined with strong new muscles, and unbreakable ceramic bones, ensuring that her superiority over everybody else is complete. Along with her physical reconditioning, Tally’s latest operation has given her the opportunity to remain clear-headed while she attempts to hunt down the New Smokies and destroy their rebellious camp.
As a member of the Cutters- a group of young specials who have their own set of rules- Tally, along with Shay, is programmed to locate and eradicate the New Smokies, who are threatening to cure the pretties of their brain lesions with a vast supply of Maddy’s pills. As a special, Tally cannot allow that to happen, especially considering the dangerous problems that her boyfriend Zane experienced when he took the pills. But it appears that the Smokies have strong allies, who have given them access to things that they previously couldn’t get, and which enable them to reach an even broader section of society.
The only way that Tally can negotiate this new development is to use a group of pretties as ‘bait’ and uncover the Smokies’ hideout. But the plan doesn’t go as well as she hopes, and she soon finds herself questioning the mission that she is programmed to complete. Will the world be safe from destruction if all pretties are clear-headed? Can uglies and pretties really live in cohesion? And if the Cutters’ mission fails, what will happen to the world as she knows it?

What I gained from reading this book:
As a special, Tally Youngblood finally feels as though she’s found her place in life. As an ugly she felt inferior, while being a pretty was fine until she rediscovered the truth about the brain lesions (that turn all pretties into bubbleheads). As a special, Tally not only belongs to a clique known as the Cutters- who share a special bond through aspects of their creation- but she is also faster, stronger and physically more superior than the rest of the people living in her city.
The one drawback, however, can be found in the actions that gave her clique their nickname- members cut their arms, and some even brand themselves with hot firebrands, in order to feel ‘icy’. This self-harming behaviour gives them adrenaline rushes that keep their minds clear, but is also representative of the destructive path that the Cutters are taking by acting as ‘soldiers’ of the city- they can only get their release by hurting themselves.
Similarly to the Cutters in the novel, there are some people nowadays who cut themselves as a way of coping with their daily lives. Many of these people do not stop until they get the support that they need- support that can be found in close friends and family. In the novel, Tally does not feel compelled to stop until Zane makes her promise that she will end her self-harming ways.
In this way, the author is sending a message by encouraging people to speak up and help friends and family who are dealing with destructive behaviour.

This novel introduces even more technology that enables the uglies, pretties and specials to function in society. Sneaksuits, which camouflage their wearer and therefore render them almost invisible to the naked eye, are just one of the author’s many creations that further enhance the futuristic feel of the series.

Unlike the first two books, where it is easy to relate to Tally and her adventures, Specials seems more detached. Perhaps this is representative of Tally’s new persona- as a cool, calm and collected special- but it also makes it more difficult for readers to share in what Tally feels, and justify her actions as a ruthless machine intent on stamping out the rebels of the New Smoke.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Genre: Teenage Fiction

Recommended for: People who want to find out what happens to Tally and all the other characters from the previous novels.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:


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