“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.
Now I understand what Westerfeld is doing with this series. Each book primarily takes on a specific social issue. Uglies deals with self-esteem associated with looks. Pretties deals with superficiality and excess.
Specials deals with power and control. Unfortunately, for me, the predominant theme that overshadowed quite a bit of the book was the cutting. In Special Circumstances, an elite group is formed- Cutters. Cutters do exactly that, cut… themselves. Does Westerfeld glorify the cutting? No. But I did not like the way this issue was addressed.
Cutting makes these individuals icy, which means it keeps them focused. As a result, they rise to a very high level in society.
Commonsense.org rates Specials as appropriate for age 12. I’m not sure I agree. It’s not that I think children should be shielded from cutting, but maybe for this age it should be addressed differently. I don’t think the way cutting is addressed in Specials will clearly come across as negative, even though in the end it is ultimately condemned. Throughout the book I had to keep reminding my daughter that cutting is a bad thing and very dangerous.
Besides that, the book is a quick read and a fun dystopian fiction novel. It does hit on social and environmental issues as did its predecessors. In fact, I marked the following quote-
Without the lesions making everyone agreeable, society was left roiling in a constant battle of words, images, and ideas. It was overwhelming, almost like the way Rusties had lived, debating every issue in public instead of letting the government do its job. p229
As long as one political point of view is not favored, I think this series is a wonderful introduction to the debate over what the government’s role actually is. I thought some of this would be over my daughter’s head, but was surprised at how much she understood. In addition, it was interesting to hear her comments as they were simpler and more to the point than many adult comments which often tend to be overly complex. Maybe we should all attempt to think like children…
I would not have picked up this series on my own to read; I was trying to find dystopian fiction for my daughter. And I think maybe the cutting would be better suited for an older audience. But this series is interesting and I do recommend it as long as it is read with a parent or adult who can then make sure that Westerfeld’s intent is understood.
Reviewed by Christina
July 8, 2014