200 Cool Girls from Children's Literature (Combined List)
Sunday Afternoon Visits: June 11

Specials: Scott Westerfeld

Specials is the final book in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy (after Uglies and Pretties). In this installment, Tally wakes up from surgery and finds herself part of an ultra-cool team of Specials (bio-engineered, covert law enforcement personnel) called the Cutters. She has snazzy techno-features, like embedded computer chips, unbreakable ceramic bones, and razors that come out of her fingernails. She's the ultimate weapon.

It's a bit disturbing to read a book in which the heroine of the series has been essentially co-opted by the bad guys. Tally now works for Shay, her complex best friend, and is expected to find and betray the New Smokies (her friends of the first book). But she does maintain traces of her former self, and she is particularly motivated to find Zane (her now brain-damaged love from the second book), and convince Dr. Cable to transform Zane into a Special, too. However, when she does find Zane, she is revolted by his weakness, by his not being "special" like she is. She struggles with herself, knowing deep inside that she loves him, but programmed to see the world so keenly that his imperfections grate on her, and so sure of her own superiority that she can't really imagine being with him again.

A series of adventures follow, during which Tally and Shay pull a stunt that turns out to have disastrous consequences, and then set off on the trail of the New Smoke. Tally re-encounters David (her love from before she met Zane), and has to go up against the seemingly invincible Dr. Cable. The ending is satisfying in many ways, although the resolution of the Zane vs. David choice is a bit of an anti-climax.

Overall, I found it a fascinating story, full of unexpected twists, chases, and cool special effects. I think that the Westerfeld says some interesting things about what constitutes beauty, about making up your own mind vs. letting others tell you what to do, and about the balance between governmental protection and control. Tally's changing personality makes this series a bit tough, however, after the first book. You like her. You dislike her. You pity her. You don't know what to do with her. For me, I prefer to have a main character that I can identify with more. Tally's evolving personality makes that a bit difficult. I'm left feeling that Scott Westerfeld presents some intriguing ideas with this series, and that teens will enjoy it, but that I didn't love it the way I do when I identify with the main character. Still, it's a fun ride. And I'll definitely see the movies if there ever are any.

You can visit Scott Westerfeld's blog here.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.