Tag Archive: Specials



Extras by Scott Westerfeld

Ages 13 and up

Aya Fuse lives in a world dominated by reputation. Either you have face rank or you’re a nobody. An extra. It’s the way society functions after the mind-rain brought on by Tally and her friends. With a face rank around 400,000, Aya is as good as an extra, unlike her older brother who is pushing the top thousand. Inspired by him (or aggravated by him), she’s become a kicker–someone who breaks video stories to the whole world. All her previous stories have been small fish, barely making a dent in her face rank. But she’s found a group of daredevil stunt girls that might just rocket her face rank to the top. Only problem is that these girls actually want to remain anonymous and Aya is forced to become one of them if she wants to pursue her story. And then they discover something bigger than a group of girls doing dangerous tricks. They discover something that has the potential to destroy cities. And the story Aya kicks is one big enough to send her face rank to the double digits. Problem is, with all that attention she’s bound to attract the attention of the people that’s she’s just exposed and they aren’t beyond abducting one girl and her friends to protect their mission.

Remember back in May, when I finished Specials and I said that I wasn’t sure that I like this series because of the way that book ended? Yeah, it took about two weeks to decide if it would even be possible for me to like the book and all I wanted to do was see if Westerfeld fixed it. So there was more than a little trepidation when I picked up Extras. Fool me once and all that. But I am SO glad that I did. Because he did fix it! And he did more than I was expecting. I was hoping for just a little cameo, just Tally dropping in or being mentioned and maybe a little bit about her life three years after the mind rain. Not so, I got a whole half a book of Tally-action, making Extras quite possibly my favorite book in the series (It also is partly responsible for the recent Scott Westerfeld-a-thon in my reading life–that and the fact that I was able to get Leviathan for six bucks). It brought Speicals from possible book-burning material (So far, the only book I’ve ever burned is Wuthering Heights–now that was cathartic) to just one more book in a series that I absolutely adore. Yes, I’m gushing, I know. Now, let’s get down to business (to defeat the Huns…sorry, couldn’t help myself).

It was interesting to see Westerfeld’s society after the mind rain. You get the distinct feeling that it is a society still adjusting to the downfall of the bubblehead era. They are expanding and making new discoveries. Hurrying to make up for the time lost in the pretty-time. The face rank system is what Aya’s own city has come up with to cope with the sudden demands of a society that is no longer mindless and complacent. It’s just one of the clues that labels this city as a futuristic Tokyo (I’m assuming, Tokyo, it could be another prominent Japanese city). There are references to Tally and the pretty-time, echoes of how the world was in the previous three books. It is still an active part of everyone’s memory (her own brother was a pretty for a few months) and a definite influence on the decisions made by Aya and her friends.

Speaking of Aya. I really liked her. She could be little dense, yes, but there’s something about her need to be noticed that just resonates. Westerfeld sums it up beautifully in the first chapter: “It still pretty much sucked, being fifteen.” We’ve all been through it, that span in our teens that we felt uncomfortable and unbeautiful and unpopular (for me it was actually seventeenish, but whatever). And I’d forgotten how well Westerfeld is able to capture that. Aya resonates with the reader because she is SO very fifteen. And kicking stories isn’t something that she does just to gain attention. She does it because she’d good at it and because she enjoys it. And it makes her feel like more than just an awkward teenager. How many of us wouldn’t want to be famous for doing what we loved to do.

I love how the plot of this book becomes so much more than it seems at first. I thought that the whole story was going to be about whether or not she would betray her new friends and kick their story and it ended up not being about that at all. I was pleasantly surprised. There are more layers to this book than there are in a birthday cake. Just when you think you’ve got the whole thing figured out, Westerfeld surprises you with some delicious new ingredient that sweetens the plot. Kept me on my toes.

One of my favorite things about the series actually comes back to bite me in this book though. I’ve always loved Westerfeld’s way with words. How he comes up with new phrases, like “nervous-making” and “brain-missing” (my personal favorite from Extras). However, I feel that he overdoes it a little bit in this book. And perhaps that was just a part of the new society overcompensating…but I started to get tired of all the noun-verb-ing combinations. But thankfully, that didn’t last long once we got into the real action and it was a small distraction.

Like I said earlier, I believe that this is my favorite book in the entire series (that might change when I eventually reread the series, I’ll let you know). Partly because of the way that it wraps everything up. Partly because we get to see Tally picking up the pieces and making something amazing out of what she’s been given. Also, partly because I think this book, gets to be a little more light-hearted. All the evil, overbearing powers have been stopped. There’s no one forcing people to get brain surge (although, that doesn’t stop some people from getting brain surge anyways). We get to experience a society that’s a little different, a little familiar and sometimes more than just a little confused.  For anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and especially if you like the dystopian genre, this series is a must read. And don’t discount Extras just because you think things have moved on. This is a vital piece that finishes off the puzzle and helps turn a trilogy into a masterpiece.

This is a good example of:

  • Creating a society
  • Creating a distinctive vocabulary
  • Character building
  • Plot twist
  • Writing for YA
  • Merging theme and plot

This book is on my recommended reading list.

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Book Review: Specials


Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Ages 13 and up

In Uglies, we met Tally Youngblood, a young girl who was counting down the days until she could be made “Pretty”. When her best friend, Shay runs away Tally is forced to follow her to the Smoke–a group rebelling against the city’s pretty-operation. There she learns that being pretty is not all that it seems to be. In Pretties, Tally has become pretty herself in order to reverse the operation that Shay never wanted. There, she meets Zane, a new pretty who is trying to break free of the mind-numbing personality change as well. Together, they manage to break free of the city and find the remnant of the Smoke. But they are captured once again.

In Specials, Tally has been surgically altered against her will for a second time. But this time, instead of making her complacent, the operation was to turn her into a hardened, “clear”-minded fighting machine. When her ex-boyfriend David and a group of Smokies crash a bash in the ugly dorms and kidnap a member from Tally’s new group, the Cutters, she and Shay must come up with a plan to get him back. And take down the New Smoke. This plan involves Zane, still recovering from the brain-damage inflicted by the “cure”. As Tally follows him, trying to locate the Smoke’s new base, she finds everything she knows being challenged once again. With her various lives pulling at her, Tally must rediscover who she is beneath it all. Because that has never changed.

I am of two minds with this book. On the one hand, I loved it. Loved the series. Couldn’t get enough of it. It was odd finally getting to the “last” book after several years of putting it aside for other things in life (And yes, technically it is the last book in the trilogy. But don’t forget, Extras is still out there). But on the other hand, oh the ending made me SO mad. But I’ll get to that when I figure out how to talk about it without giving everything away.

One of my favorite things about these books is that Westerfield so totally immerses you in the world and thoughts of Tally that you end thinking and speaking like Tally and her friends. Seriously, ask my friends. “Nervous-making” was definitely a part of my vocabulary for months after I read the first two books. Westerfield carries that on to the third book. And it works out well. In this book, perhaps more than any other time, Tally’s mind is completely different from the people around her. I find it interesting thinking that perhaps, had Dr. Cable never sent Tally after Shay in book one, she would have happily become a Pretty, but going into the Wild seems to have woken something in Tally that could not be shut down again. As Tally proves in books two and three.

Suspense? Hmmm, I don’t think it would be a proper Uglies book if there wasn’t suspense. If you’ve read the first two, it does seem to start out a little slow, but it picks up quite quickly. You’re right into the action after the first few chapters. If you haven’t read them yet, well, you should, because they are page-turners.

My only problem with this series is the ending. No, I’m not just saying that because Westerfield tricked me into thinking she’d end up with [Spoiler] instead of [Double-spoiler]. No, I’m not saying that because I’m usually right about these things and ended up wrong (which can be quite fun actually, on occasion). I happen to like happy endings. Really happy endings. Like, Disney-type happy endings. Granted, not all books lend themselves to Prince Charming riding off with the (Pick-Your-Princess) on a white horse. And this definitely wasn’t one of them. Obviously, (as was the case with Hunger Games) too much has happened for Tally to pick up the pieces right away and have everything be all sunshine and rainbows. But, for me, I didn’t get to even see that the pieces were picked up eventually. Oh, there’s the promise…but I like cold, hard fact. In epilogue form if necessary. She had started, she was taking steps to becoming whole again, but you don’t get to see that. And yet, I don’t know how that could have been fixed (okay, well, I do, but I didn’t write the series). I mean, at least as the end of HG, we get a brief glimpse at Katniss when she’s kind of put everything back together. Not so with Tally, and that is probably the main reason that I will, eventually, read Extras. Hoping, that I will get some sort of resolution. Just an inkling. Or just a smudgling?

But other than that, I suppose I did like it. You won’t find me singing over it. But it IS good writing and it does have a very good story with some very good observations of society and being who you are. So yes, I would say that you should read it. Because I probably will, again.

This is a good example of:

  • Creating a society
  • Creating a distinctive vocabulary
  • Character building
  • Plot twist
  • Writing for YA
  • Merging theme and plot

This book is on my recommended reading list.

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