Specials (Uglies Trilogy, Book 3)

by Scott Westerfeld

Paperback, 2006





Scholastic (2006)


After being captured and surgically transformed into a "special," teenaged Tally Youngblood, now a government agent programmed to protect society from outside threats, is ordered to eliminate the rebel colony New Smoke, Tally's former home.

Original publication date


Media reviews

Specials is part parable of life as an adolescent struggling to define your identity in a conformist world; part dark and unflinching look at the very real mental disorders that this impossible circumstance visits upon many young people.

User reviews

LibraryThing member sarah-e
Specials is my least favorite of the Uglies books. The plot did nothing for me. It hardly made sense from one page to the next - I imagined the author pulling scenes out of a hat and just sticking them together as he wrote it. It didn't progress naturally or in a way at all similar to the first two
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books. Tally's character arc is somewhat completed though I would have rather seen her take some initiative, not respond to others' agendas or situations she was put in.

In the previous books I was fascinated by the society - first of the Uglies and the Smokies, and how they reacted to 21st century life; then to what life was like for the Pretties and what all the surgeries they undergo involve. This book didn't hold much that was new for me. In the first two books I was really compelled to read on in anticipation of this book - the Specials had grabbed my attention from their first mention, and I couldn't wait to see their side of society. What a let down. My biggest problem in the whole book was with the Cutters. I hated the Cutters, and I feel that it was terribly irresponsible to so prominently feature cutting in a young adult book. If I had a teenager I wouldn't want them to read something that treated cutting the way this book does.

Add to this some smaller frustrations - grammar, punctuation and capitalization are things I expect from professionally published books - this is the kind of thing that pulls me out of the story and forces me back into my own head. I couldn't really enjoy the ending either, it seemed to be just slapped together to leave room for another book. I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as the previous two, not nearly as much as I expected to, and not nearly enough to make me want to read Extras.
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LibraryThing member lenoreva
"Specials", the third book in Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series, follows Tally in her new role as a "Special". Shay is now her boss and she feels contempt for anyone not "Special", including her boyfriend Zane. Shay, Tally and their group of "cutters" are charged with finding the new "smoky"
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settlement and stemming the tide of cured "pretty" runaways from the city.

Even though Tally is now one of the ruling class, she is still questioning authority and pulling even more dangerous pranks than ever before – one near the beginning of the book sets off something that hasn’t happened since “rusty” time – a full out war between cities.

Again, Tally must overcome societal norms and be true to herself. Because she has a weaponized body, the story is full of action which reads quickly but is not as interesting to me personally. Brainwashing as a plot point can be quite convenient, but often makes characters act in strange ways that can simply be explained away – would seem like lazy writing in any other book, but here it didn’t bother me (too) much. Still, the story comes to a satisfying conclusion and you feel like you're leaving a friend when you read the last page.
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LibraryThing member MoniqueReads
This is the last book in Tally's story and I am a little disappointed. Fist the good, by book 3 the slang is no longer annoying. The bad, Tally character is a lot weaker in this book. I can understand the reason behind her character flaw, but I expected her to deal with it better. Kind of like she
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did in the first two books, when she progressed. What connections I formed with her in "Pretties" were wiped out in this book. I did not care for her in this book (just like in Uglies), she was too much of a follower.

I also had a problem with how the ending was wrapper up too nicely. There is an art to wrapping up a story and Westerfeld did not do it in this story. I hate when a another wraps up all characters lives in the last chapter. I would rather be left guessing the what happens then to have a wrap up were an author basically states: so and so did that, and she does this. That is the formula that Westerfeld uses.

Even though I have one more book left in the series (Extras, which is sort of an epilogue with a new main character). I think this series as a whole would have been better if the author had done these things:

1. Extended the time period. Yes, revolutions can happen fast but it takes longer than a year to fully contemplate there is a problem and then overthrow the system. Especially if you are 16. Westerfeld packed a lot for just one year. And it takes away from the believability of the story (and yes I know it is science fiction, but it could have been executed better).

2. This series would have been better is the target audience had been adults. The young adult genre can be restricting. It has to be hard to try to convey emotions and concepts that are mature but keep them in a clean wholesome young adult reader format. It seemed that the Uglies "Trilogy" as a whole suffered from this restriction. The relationship that Tally formed with those around her would have been more believable if the reader did have to remind themselves that they were dealing with a 16 year old girl. Not a 20 something year old woman.

Pros: Not as slang ridden
Cons: Plot, Characters, Ending

Overall Recommendation: I would only recommend this if you have read the other two books and have a desire to at least see how Tally Youngblood's story ends. It is a fairly quick read (like the other two), so it will not feel like a complete waste of time.
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LibraryThing member Rhinoa
The third and final in the main Uglies series. Tally and co return again this time as Specials. There is still tension between Tally and Shay, but it is surpressed now that Shay is the leader. They are still trying to stamp out the New Smoke and Tally is keen to get Zane to join their team to make
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him better after the events in Pretties. The Specials are fighting machines, they are Cruel Pretties designed to instil fear into others and were created by Dr Cable just in their city.

Shay leads the Crim group in a chase of the Uglies, but they capture Fausto leaving Tally alone to save Shay. They take Shay too and Tally decides to follow them and ends up meeting up with Andre Simpson Smith again to get coordinates. It takes her on a journey to the New Smoke and another city. She learns the truth finally and gets involved in a war.

A great conclusion to the story. I was glad it didn't have a completely happy ending, it was quite a realistic series despite the sci-fi elements and this made it more so. I am interested to see how Extras fits in as the story closes quite nicely.
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LibraryThing member DevourerOfBooks
In some ways this was my favorite book in the series (which I read over the course of 5 or 6 days, by the way). In addition to the themes Westerfeld broaches in “Uglies” and “Pretties,” “Specials” also addresses the issues of giving up power and freedom in return for security. I simply
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love that you can read this as a young adult fantasy novel, a dystopian novel, or as thinly veiled social commentary, it works no matter what. Yes, I am aware that dytopian works by their nature must include social commentary, but the “Uglies” trilogy looks not only at where we might go if things continue to progress, but where we are right now.

Seriously, this is some of the best young adult literature I’ve read in awhile. I know it is popular, but this is much more deserving than Twilight to be the runaway blockbuster series. It is engaging, smart, and doesn’t include borderline-abusive relationships with shimmery vampires. Go ahead. Start with Uglies. If you aren’t sure about it, get the books from the library, but I would recommend getting all of them at once because once you finish one, you won’t want to wait for the next one.
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LibraryThing member Squishy133

Specials was actually one of my favourite books in the Uglies series. It follows “Uglies” and “Pretties“.

After Tally is forced to become a Special, she joins the Cutters, an elite group of Specials who cut themselves to feel ‘icy’. After they find David and another one of
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the Smokies at an Ugly party, Tally and the Cutters follow them to the New Smoke camp, where they are forced to decide whether to destroy them or not.

Tally didn’t have a lot of company for a lot of the book, but there were a few characters from earlier books who met Tally throughout this novel, including Andrew Simpson Smith, Zane, David and Shay.
Throughout the book, Tally was forced to decide between her newfound ‘Special’ status and the life at The Smoke that she once knew. She spends a lot of the novel fighting the things that make her a Special, and trying to remember what her life was like before. Despite being a Special, Tally, unlike the others still has an element of humanity that means she remembers and still feels some of the emotions she had before.
Zane isn’t in this book that much, as he has not been made into a Special like the others. This is one of the things that makes Tally resistant to being a Special, and she spends much of her time trying to convince the others to change him. He is fairly similar to how he was in the previous books, and was still a little annoying, although he did do some good things.
Shay has been promoted to being the leader of the Cutters, and her new authority causes her to clash with Tally on some occasions, especially regarding Zane, however she shows more initiative and character development during the book than Tally, who has become extremely resistant to change, and refuses to see if she is wrong, which got quite annoying at times.
David, who is one of my favourite characters, was not in the book all that much, which was a bit of a disappointment, however when he was, he was able to make the book that much more real; I found his character to be easier to relate to than the others, having not been raised in the same environment.

While not much of the world that Uglies is set in has been shown in previous books, it was visited a little more in this one. Another city is visited, which expanded the setting, and gave a bigger overview of how this world worked than was shown in the other books. The other city was a little more like our world, although they did still have the Uglies/Pretties thing going on. I liked that more of the world was shown, as I found it fascinating, and seeing more of how it worked was very interesting.

The plot was quite fast-paced, which I liked, however it still allowed enough time for the characters to gain some development. It was structured in a similar way to the previous books, however the ending was still a little unexpected. I quite liked the ending, and it allowed for further books in the series, which the author used, even though it was originally supposed to be a trilogy.

Overall, I have so far enjoyed reading the Uglies series, and Specials did not disappoint.
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LibraryThing member shavienda
Alright, the series is for YA, and I'm beyond that age group. I still found this book to be the best of the series, and shed a few tears and found myself vividly imagining the story as it went. I could almost see myself in the protagonist, and imagined that if I had been in the same situation I
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would have handled it just as her. Two specific scenes in the book had me seeing it in my minds eye in vivid details, a silent tear sliding down my cheek as I was overwhelmed by my own feelings, seeing myself in the situations.My secret shame: I said to someone who did something silly today that what they did was "brain-missing"
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LibraryThing member _Zoe_
This is the last book of the Uglies trilogy and by far the weakest. I found the first 3/4 or so actually boring; there was too much hoverboarding and not enough plot. Also, considering that Specials are supposed to think clearly, they did some pretty stupid things. I did like the ending, though.

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series as a whole was definitely a worthwhile read, very thought-provoking. But it had the potential to be so much better.
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LibraryThing member PhoenixTerran
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
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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.

Experiments in Reading
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LibraryThing member bluesalamanders
I was at first turned off by the title, and even what little I'd heard about the plot, of this series, but it turns out that they are extremely well-written YA science fiction books, with interesting characters, engaging plots, and a credible world. I was impressed by the writing in the first book
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and am still impressed; I plan to read more of this author's work.
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LibraryThing member stephxsu
At long last the final installment in Scott Westerfeld's immensely popular UGLIES trilogy is out. Tally Youngblood, the independent and strong-willed protagonist, has undergone more mental and physical changes than she can count. Now, for one last time, she will change again.

At the start of the
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novel, Tally is a Cutter, a special division of Special Circumstances. Cruelly beautiful with enhanced reflexes and easily triggered tempers, the infamous Specials are feared by everyone. Tally and her Special friend Shay want to subdue the New Smokies, who are spreading a cure to the Pretties to cure them of their bubbleheadness caused by brain lesions implanted in their heads. Tally and Shay are perfect for this job because they were the best tricksters when they were Uglies, had been founding members of the Old Smoke, and understand how Pretties’ minds work back when they were Pretty themselves.

However, when one of their own is taken by the Smokies, Tally and Shay decide to go another avenue: they will help Zane, Tally's mentally damaged boyfriend, escape from New Pretty Town. From there, he will hopefully lead the Cutters to the location of the New Smoke, where they can then destroy it.

But Tally's feelings towards Zane conflict with her Special mental programming. And being in the wild is causing her overly sharpened senses to calm down. What's more, it turns out that she and Shay have started a war between New Pretty Town and the New Smoke, a city called Diego. Tally must battle her Specials programming and learn to "think" for herself again before she can put a stop to this unnecessary war and the brain lesions.

The UGLIES trilogy will appeal to both boys and girls, and this fantastic conclusion really wraps up why Scott Westerfeld is such a brilliant writer. SPECIALS has action, emotion, love, and forgiveness, and the ending gives you hope. They are still out there.
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LibraryThing member MickyFine
After returning to the city once again, Tally has become a Special, the advanced and deadly set of human beings that keep the city in line. But as doses of the nanos that cure the brain lesions continue to infiltrate the city, Tally must hunt down the source. Using Zane as her means to hunting down
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the rebels, Tally will have to choose between the theories she's been raised to believe in and the realities she observes.

As the third book in the series, the overarching plot is relatively, if a little too easily, well resolved. However, my major issue with the series is that the same plot is reused from one novel to the next. With each installment must overcome her basic understanding of her world in order to defeat the larger government conspiracy, but as a character she never really grows. Also, the dynamics of her relationships with other characters are predictable and not very compelling. These novels may be more interesting read relatively spread apart, but reading them back to back tends to illuminate their flaws. An easy enough read to complete the story arc but not interesting enough to make me feel the need to read the additional novel set in this universe.
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LibraryThing member thomnottom
Looking around I think I may be in the minority in thinking that this may be the best of the trilogy. I really enjoyed Uglies and, overall, it's probably a more consistent book, but the ending for Specials is very different from what I thought would come from the series. It's hard to describe
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(without spoiling anything) other than to say that it isn't exactly happy, but it was immensely satisfying.

A big improvement for me over Pretties, which felt too much like a rehash of Uglies.
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LibraryThing member shavienda
Alright, the series is for YA, and I'm beyond that age group. I still found this book to be the best of the series, and shed a few tears and found myself vividly imagining the story as it went. I could almost see myself in the protagonist, and imagined that if I had been in the same situation I
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would have handled it just as her. Two specific scenes in the book had me seeing it in my minds eye in vivid details, a silent tear sliding down my cheek as I was overwhelmed by my own feelings, seeing myself in the situations.My secret shame: I said to someone who did something silly today that what they did was "brain-missing"
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LibraryThing member Toast.x2
ok. so on top of all the other stuff i have been reading lately, i became thoroughly engrossed in a series which has not let me down in the slightest. this is a bit long winded, but keep in mind it is in reference to reading three books.. and i am trying REALLY hard not to give away spoilers..

it is
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hard to write about this book because in the context of the review, the keywords and mannerisms of the characters society seems like nothing but grammar and spelling errors. bear with it though, in the books, you are so washed over with the word use and logic that it actually makes sense in the proper frame.

the Uglies trilogy (now a quadrilogy?) was very engrossing. Book one, Uglies, describes a world where there is no war. there is no famine, hatred, or turmoil. 200-300 years in the past over population, strip mining, clear cutting, genetic engineering of plants and animals laid waste on everything in the world. humans have rebuilt from the ashes after we destroyed ourselves. our generation is referred to as “the rusties” since everything left from our world is covered in rust and falling apart.

Tally Youngblood is 15 years old, and only months away from becoming one of the “pretties”. in this world, to remove all of the dangerous human habits of destruction, you are born and raised by your parents, once you hit a certain age (8 or 9 from what i could tell) you are shipped off to school as an ugly. at the age of 16 you are taken from school where you will be put under the knife and remade as a better person. your bones are ground down and or elongated, you have new muscle tissue added to your body, and you have full facial re-constructive surgery. all “pretties” have a choice on how they look, with in the guidelines of the governments rules of morphology. they effectively remove all extremes in height, hair color, skin color, etc. everyone is similar and there is no need for hatred.

Tally, in waiting for her 16th birthday meets a new friend, Shay, who has no desire to become one of the pretties. a week before their shared birthday/graduation from being uglies, Shay decides to run off to a rumored group of rebels who have shafted the system and stayed ugly, and foregone all efforts to work within the system. Tally however has no desire to join her friend and sticks around for her surge (surgery). her only desire is become pretty and join her friends in New Pretty town, where she can dance and play and enjoy the life she has been programmed to want since birth.

Unfortunately, Tally is roped into a game of social change. she is scooped up by the fearsome and dangerous police force that acts as bogeymen for the government. Special Circumstances (the Specials) only comes forward when needed, generally letting the local police force take care of everything. This being a “Special circumstance” Tally is forced to follow her friend to the encampment of rebels (the Smoke) and betray her friend, and everyone who has escaped so far. if she does not, she will be denies surge and will forever be Ugly. and in this society, this is the worst thing that could ever happen to you.

Book one was so good, that i had an itch to move on to book two immediately. i hate doing that. i love to stretch a series out if possible, and draw out the enjoyment from the story line. so when book one was finished, though i really wanted to move on to the second book, i ramped myself down and read the Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja book. Book two immediately followed and when finished i lost all self control and my fingers and eyes forced me to read book three next.. it took about two days with my schedule.. two lousy days.. why couldn’t it last longer… i wasted a great book by reading it too soon..

well, not a waste. damn. it was so good, i had no choice really.. it was in my best interest to read the book. or so i keep telling myself. there is a fourth book. it was written after the trilogy was announced, so it is a bit of an anomaly, thus the trilogy quadrilogy notation above. unfortunately, the book Extras is still in hardback edition, so until it hits paperback, i will have to force myself to wait.. this sucks..

these books, written by Scott Westerfeld, fall into the teen-fiction category. they are written for teens, but the story line and books themselves do not lend themselves only to teens. being thirty years old, i literally could not stop reading these books. if you need a good break from your normal reading schedule, i would throw these in the mix and read them. they all rank around 300 pages of single space small print, so they are not some little read you would use to sturdy the kitchen table. instead, they are full of vibrant ideas, technology, tattoos that i wish were a reality. there were no obvious plot twists that made me think “why am i reading this” or “how predictable” instead, i was often surprised and left feeling “bubbly” as they state in the book.

imagine a world full of barbie dolls being slowly destroyed by barbie’s cyber-punk kid sister that has been kept in the closet for years.

i was sad to come to the end of this series, but glad to know that i will have at least one more book to close it all up in the near future.

anyone who is interested should note that all three of the first books can be bought in a boxed set for under 20 bucks.. this is how i got sucked into them.. a really good price for a nice story line idea turned into one of the best purchases i have made on books in a while. now, i just have to hope that hollywood has not gotten their hands on the thought of movies. these would be thoroughly ruined and not done justice.. read them before someone f*cks them up for you… thats all i have to say on the matter.
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LibraryThing member eenerd
Third action-packed installment of the Uglies series; Tally Youngblood is now herself a "Special"- a surgically engineered fighting machine with superhuman senses and an inner rage dial that goes from 0 to 100 in no time flat. Tally and the rest of her crew are the elite of Special Circumstances,
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and on the hunt to bring down the New Smoke. But when an ambush goes horribly wrong and one of the Cutters is kidnapped, events begin to unfold which will once again turn Tally's world view on its ear. Great twists and turns, lots of adventure, and fantastic writing.
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LibraryThing member RamonaWray
Better than Pretties. Tally's all grown up and with it comes the responsibility of hard choices. It was by far the most serious book of the series. Not keen on the whole cutting-for-adrenaline-kicks concept but, hey, it's fiction. Moving on to "Extras".
LibraryThing member tryingtogetsomesleep
I think that towards the end of this series I was getting irritated because I just wanted something to finally HAPPEN. And it did. I liked the ending. Didn't love it, but it was okay. This series was nice, light reading.
LibraryThing member usagijihen
My favourite of the entire series, possibly because Tally finally comes into her own and stops being a coward.

That and the abilities of the Cutter Specials are really awesome. :D

I'd love to have a prequel to the series, though. I'm happy with 'Extras' as a sequel to check in in terms of what
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happened after the Mind-Rain, but I'd like to see what happened before 'Uglies' started.
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LibraryThing member flemmily
The is my favorite so far of the four book trilogy - it's less of a romp and more, well, ugly. Tally is pretty isolated in this book and doesn't have too many warm fuzzy moments. The ending is a little cheesy though.
LibraryThing member cranmergirl
Sixteen year-old Tally has gone from Ugly to Pretty and now, to Special. She has super human senses and physical abilities, owing to ceramic bones, monofilament muscles and presumably, some kind of neurological engineering. Again, her brain has been toyed with, but this time, she has been convinced
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to fight for the enemy in this epic battle of freedom-fighters vs. Big Brother-types. As in the other two books, there are a number of increasingly implausible chase scenes throughout the book. All the while, the reader is hoping that Tally will once again overcome the government's surgically-altered mind control on her own due to the innate strength of her character. At times in this book, more than in the other two, Tally comes off as quite shallow and fickle, leaving the reader to wonder, is this Tally or the surgery? This story can be taken on two levels. It can be read strictly as a young adult action series involving the adventures of Tally Youngblood. Or it can be seen as a commentary on human nature, which is how I preferred to read it. The moral of the story to me is that humans, left to their own devices, will pillage and destroy nature and ultimately, themselves every time. Therefore, some type of counter-force must be installed to prevent mankind from going down the wrong path time and again. However, the problem always arises; who will oversee the counter-force to make sure that it stays on the straight and narrow itself?? These are interesting ideas but the author seems to have a more cynical and negative outlook on mankind than I do. One other point that I did not appreciate was the author's somewhat tacit approval of 'cutting' or engaging in high risk behaviors such as flying off buildings as a way to sharpen the senses and gain mental clarity (getting bubbly or icy). To risk sounding like an old fogey, these suggestions (and others such as constant champagne drinking by sixteen year-olds) seemed inappropriate in a book geared to young adults.
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LibraryThing member fortheloveofbooksrev
The Uglies series never slows, which reoccurs in Specials. It's so frusturating to watch Tally finally get a grasp of her own thinking, only to see her thrown back into a new surgery that changes her yet again. But I think that is what makes Specials so addicting. Just when I start to think I can
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predict what will happen, everything changes.
Specials is just as adventurous as the others, maybe even more-so now that Tally is practically a superhuman. I felt that this book spent more time describing the mental games and processes within Tally than the others. Instead of focusing primarily on events and the grand scheme of things, Specials spent time describing everything from Tally's perspective, the mastermind behind everything.
To me, Specials is the most detailed and well thought out of the series, and made me extremely hungry for the next book, Extras.
Loved it of course! 4/5
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LibraryThing member readingrat
A morality tale skillfully disguised as a fast-paced, futuristic adventure story and a wonderful conclusion to the Uglies trilogy.
LibraryThing member KrissZane
I love this book and the whole series. The way they talk is amazingly great. and I think everyone should read this book. It's a story of love and lost, hate and the gaining of friends. the adventures in this book was also very well written. At times I felt like I was in the book, feeling and seeing
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everything as if I was there. I love all books like that, but this was different. The best to explain it is to say it was stronger than normal. It was totally amazing and I love it. I think everyone should read this book.
I wish Zane didn't die at the end. He was one of my favorite characters in this book. He was like totally hot, and amazing. I'm also happy that Tally and Shay her ex-best friend were... well friends again.
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LibraryThing member ethelmertz
A good finish to a great series. It's a little suspicious that it takes Tally so long to stop trusting Dr. Cable, though.


½ (2125 ratings; 3.8)
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