Scott Westerfeld,
(Simon Pulse, 2007)

Tally Youngblood is now part of an elite team within Special Circumstances made up of some of her former pretty friends and headed by Shay. Surgically modified for extra strength, speed and visual impact -- the "cruel pretty" look complete with filed teeth and razor nails -- they are programmed to be entirely focused on their mission. They call themselves Cutters because cutting themselves is the only sensation that being a Special does not provide.

The team is after New Smokies who are flooding the pretty population with the pills that cure the brain lesions that keep the pretties, well, stupid. When an attempt to capture one of the New Smokies fails and results in the capture of some of the team, Tally becomes even more determined to track down the New Smoke.

Her plan involves helping Zane and some other pretties escape New Pretty Town and following them with the help of a "sneak suit" that makes her invisible. Zane detects her anyway, but does not tell the others. The journey ends in a city called Diego, where rules don't seem as rigid and a cure for being "Special" is possible.

Tally resists the cure that the rest of the Cutters who went ahead have taken, but when Special Circumstances declares war, attacks Diego and irreparably damages Zane, Tally doesn't need a cure to switch sides. After reuniting with David, she forms an alliance with him and by extension, the New Smokies, to take on Dr. Cable and Special Circumstances, and nothing is going to get in her way.

As with the other two books in the series, the pace is frenetic and packed with action, and readers would be well advised to read the first two books before tackling Specials. Scott Westerfeld clearly makes the point that no issue is black or white, bad or good, but rather that whatever one decides should be chosen with thought and care. Westerfeld also doesn't tie things up neatly with a bow. At the end of Specials, the pretties have given up security for freedom, but the outcome is still not clear. The pretties could succeed where the people of the past -- us -- failed, or they could start the whole cycle over again, and that would not be a pretty sight.

review by
Donna Scanlon

31 May 2008

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