Book Review: Specials by Scott Westerfeld

81vov3tq3hlSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2011 Simon Pulse (first published 2006)

Pages: 350

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else.

Still, it’s easy to tune that out—until she’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.


Specials is the third book in the Uglies series, and the final book in the main trilogy. There is a ‘companion’ novel, Extras, and Westerfeld recently released Imposters, which is set in the same universe. While I enjoyed this book to a small degree, it didn’t blow me away. It didn’t leave me with any significant lasting impression.

The book opens with brilliant writing. Some amazing descriptions really make you feel like you’re seeing the world through Tally’s special super sense eyes. However, this isn’t carried through the rest of the book. That level of description all the way through would be too much, but I’d have expected more. If you introduce the idea that a character has these extra senses, you have to carry that through and show how they see the world with their super senses in the rest of the book too, not just at the opening to get the reader’s attention.

They’re supposed to be specials, superior to everyone else. They might be in terms of their super reflexes and senses, but they still go around doing tricks and acting not much different from how they did before in some ways.

I never really understood why Dr Cable let Tally and the others be ‘Cutters’, separate from the other Specials. It was supposed to be some kind of special experiment, but there was never really any explanation so I never understood Dr Cable’s purpose in letting the Cutters become some kind of special clique. The presentation of cutting to become ‘icy’ is also problematic, and could have been dealt with in a better way, especially considering this is aimed at a teenage audience.

One of the biggest weaknesses of this book, and the series in general, was the main villain/antagonist, Dr Cable. While I do think the main conflict explored in the series is an internal one – Tally’s fight to overcome her tampered brain – if you’re going to include an antagonist, they can’t just be a vague figure. They have to be at least a bit fleshed out, even if they don’t physically feature in that many scenes. Dr Cable had no character, I had no idea why she was doing what she was doing, what her motivations were, what had made her into that ‘antagonist’. We don’t need a whole back story, especially when she doesn’t have a physical presence in many chapters, but they need to have some character and personality.

Dr Cable seemed to have no character at all. She was a very unconvincing villain, just because I didn’t know anything about her. It’s like she was a token baddy. Just there because a story needs a villain. There wasn’t as much suspense in the last section of Specials because Dr Cable wasn’t very intimidating, she wasn’t a good villain. She was bland and uninteresting, and that just sucked the tension out of the ending. Without any spoilers, the ending of Dr Cable’s story fell flat because I didn’t have any interest in her character to begin with. There’s a great twist towards the end, but it just falls flat.

Overall I enjoyed parts of the series, but it didn’t wow me. The concept was great. I loved the idea of what the world would be like if people were made to look the same through an operation, and how controlling people through messing with their brains as a way to stop them fighting each other and destroying the planet. However, each book felt a bit repetitive. Somehow, this final book just wasn’t a satisfying enough conclusion to the series.

Read my reviews of Uglies and Pretties to see what I thought of the first two books in the series.

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