~by Scott Westerfeld
2007 Locus Award Nominee

Specials is the final book in the Uglies Trilogy which also consists of Uglies and Pretties although Scott Westerfeld has written a sequel of sorts entitled Extras. The third volume provides a mostly satisfying conclusion to the story of Tally Youngblood and the world in which she lives.

The basic premise is that human civilization, as we know it, was destroyed when an oil eating bacteria was released upon the world. Humanity survived and adapted, as it is wont to do, now living in high technology Cities that are separated by vast areas of wilderness--completely independent of one another. To keep the population in check, and to prevent war and aggression, a type of brain surgery was introduced and put into practice. A small contingent of people, rebelling against this, left the cities to form a subversive community in the wilderness known as the Smoke.

The trilogy follows Tally from when she was an Ugly (before the mind and body altering surgery) to her short time as a Pretty, to her ultimate transformation into a Special--joining the elite, vicious, and mysterious fighting force of her city. As an Ugly, and then again as a Pretty, she learns more and more about the history and current situation of the world around her, joining with the Smokies and helping them and their cause in any way she can. Now, as a Special, she will do anything she can to stop them.

One of the great thing about Specials is that Tally is no longer one of the "good guys" and yet is still a sympathetic character--Westerfeld pulls it off magnificently. While the first half or so of the book seemed somewhat slow (which is surprising considering how much is going on) the second half really takes off nicely, and the ending is great. Though, I'm not entirely sold on the last chapter.

The writing style is simple enough--short sentences without much detailed description--so it's really the story that carries these three books along. However, the story itself seems a little too straightforward, without much complexity, although it does have some nice twists to it. I very much enjoyed the trilogy (and mean to pick up Extras at some point) and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick utopian/dystopian read. Although obviously aimed towards young adults, there is definitely enough here that older readers will appreciate, too.