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Specials by Scott Westerfeld



Title: Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 372
Rating: 4/5
Genre: YA Lit/ Sci-Fi
Summary (Off Goodreads): "Special Circumstances":The words have sent chills down Tally's spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor -- frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally's never been ordinary.
And now she's been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.
The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it's easy to tune that out -- until Tally'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.

Review:  I really didn't enjoy this book the first time I read it. I thought the ending was very lackluster and that it was just a repeat of the second book, Tally trying to think her way out of the brain surgery that had been performed on her. Reading it a second time, I like it much more than the first.

I think that the first time that I read it, I got caught up in all the emotions that Westerfeld makes you feel. Those emotions were so strong the first two books that I don't think I really let them sink in before starting the third book. All I saw was that Tally was being manipulated and she had to think her way out of another situation, make herself realize once again that something was wrong.

There is a lot of repetition between Pretties and this book. Tally once again betrays Shay, she once again has to rewire her brain, she goes into the wild and it once again changes her. Despite all this repetition, the book still draws you in. You watch Tally's world literally fall apart all around her. It's kind of heartbreaking because every time she finds something to believe in, it seems to disintegrate. She believed in the system of her world, that people had to be controlled, that the Smoke had to be controlled because it was the only way to keep the world from destroying itself. All of that gets challenged.

Tally is a special Special in this book. Her group is called The Cutters and Shay is their leader. They're a group of Crims that have been turned into Specials and cut themselves to stay especially alert and Icy, as they call it. Cutting themselves brings their world into focus. Westerfeld does a very good job of handling teens who cut and the idea behind it. They do it to have control. Tally does it because it allows her to concentrate, to see everything as it is, or that's what she believes at the time. As her view changes, so do her habits. Eventually, she stops cutting herself but even that isn't instantaneous. Every day is a struggle for her to not cut herself.

Tally's motivation in this book is to make Zane Special, to recruit him and spend her life with him and the other Cutters. So Shay and she help him escape, bringing down half the city's defenses in the processes. Tally follows him, insisting on staying with him even though there's a faster way. Once again, Shay and her fight, Shay telling Tally that she believes herself the center of the universe. As Tally follows them through the wild, and finally finds herself in Diego, a city that has the cure and there are no longer lesions on people brains, she finds her perspective changing. She starts to think that maybe, just maybe, she's not as Special as she has always been lead to believe.

Eventually, Tally is caught in this new city and they are going to operate on her once again, turning her back into any old pretty. That is until Shay comes and saves her. Tally is ecstatic, until she learns that Shay and the other cutters have been cured, no longer what Tally considers Special. She's ready to fight them until Special Circumstances attacks Diego.

This is the part that you really start feeling terrible for Tally. Everything seems to be falling apart because of what she did. The worst part is, she no longer can believe in her city. She was taught that cities didn't start wars, that they didn't meddle with other cities. When her city attacks innocent people, Tally no longer knows what to believe. Viewing all the destruction in Diego leaves Tally almost without feeling. Over and over again, Tally seems to see everything she's worked for and believed in destroyed. Every time her world falls apart, another person swoops in to turn her into what they want her to be, something that wasn't changing in Diego; they wanted to operate to despecialize her and rewire her brain with pills so her emotions weren't so extreme.

The event that really turned me off to this book the first time I read it was Zane's death. I really liked him when I first read the series (I still do) and I was so disappointed when he died, when Tally discovered his death. I thought that for once, just once, she would finally get something she wanted, would finally be able to live her life the way she wanted, with someone she wanted. When Zane died, trying to make himself better for her, it was almost too much to take. I felt like nothing could ever go well for Tally. Rereading, knowing what was going to happen, it let me take a closer look at everything. I realized that you were supposed to feel terrible for Tally but, in the end, it worked out for the best. Zane's death let her finally shake off the last of the Special programming. It also allowed her to make the decision to stay out of the cities, to stay with David and remind people that, while no one had to the right to control them, they had to learn to control themselves. It made me realize that David and she were a better match. David hated cities and knew nothing about them. Not how to live in them or navigate in them and even most of the technology was foreign to him. In the end, she needed someone like David around to keep her as Tally, someone who remembered her when she was just an ugly kid trying to figure things out.

Once, I would have said that this book destroyed the series. Now I feel like this book MAKES the series. This book really lets you see Tally in a way we haven't been able to in the previous three books. I know that Pretties is a hard book for some people to get through, but if you don't read Pretties you can't get to Specials which really makes this series, well, special.

Books so far this year: 10/75
Currently Reading: Extras by Scott Westerfeld & Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
As always, you can read this and all my reviews at im_writing or my Goodreads account.
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