Book Review | Specials (Uglies #3) by Scott Westerfeld

This review is of the third book in a series and contains spoilers for the first and second books. Please only read this review if you’ve read Uglies and Pretties by Scott Westerfeld.

Specials (Uglies #3) by Scott Westerfeld

Published by Simon Pulse on January 1, 2006

Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopian

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Source: Purchased

Goodreads★ 1/2 

“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.


I continued my back-to-back reading of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, and picked up Specials immediately after finishing Pretties. This series was originally written as a trilogy, with the fourth book being published later. Thus, Specials can be thought of as a conclusion to the storyline readers have been experiencing thus far. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my favorite of the first three books.

Just as with Pretties, Specials begins with Tally in her new form, except this time she is a Special. I had a very difficult time getting into this book, mainly because the writing was awkward and difficult to follow. I can tell that Westerfeld has again shifted his writing style. This time, the writing takes on the harshness of Specials. While it is impressive that Westerfeld can adapt his writing in many ways, this new tone definitely made the reading experience less enjoyable for me.

In addition, I found that Specials follows a much similar formula that the two earlier books in the series do. Tally beings the story in her city in one form, and then leaves to discover something beyond the borders. While I won’t go into the details of the action so as to avoid spoilers, it was a little frustrating that I could somewhat predict the next step in the book because it was following such a formulaic arc.

My last main critique of Specials flows from Pretties. I really don’t like how Shay and Tally are part of a clique called the Cutters. Self-harm is a series issue in today’s society, and I feel like Westerfeld introduced it in an uncomfortable way. While Tally does stop cutting, it is never truly addressed how serious and dangerous such a habit can be. Not only can this aspect of the series be triggering for those who struggle with self-harm, but it downplays it as well.

Nonetheless, despite the issues I had with Specials, I did enjoy the story overall. While some characters acted outside of their developed personalities, there were a number of scenes that truly shed light on Tally’s society in an intriguing way. I was touched with many of the emotional moments, and the ending itself was solid. If you’ve been wondering whether or not to continue on with this series, I highly recommend doing so! Tally is an incredible protagonist, and I truly enjoyed her story.


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