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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scott Westerfield's Specials -- I didn't read the earlier books in the series, and I didn't read this one either -- but I liked it.

Westerfield, Scott (2007) Specials  Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, LLC

I loved Scott Westerfield's Levaithan series and had been meaning to read his series composed of Pretties, Uglies, and Specials.  I ordered all three from the library, but Specials, the last book in the series came first, and when it came, it came as an audio book.  I started playing it in the car on the way home from work that day, and i was immediately hooked (though I would generally suggest anyone wanting to check out this series should start with the first book.

And so, before I write about what is so great about Specials, let me put in a plug for audio books.  If you haven't ever listened to one, or it has been a while, you should give them another try.  I first fell in love with audio books when I was doing my coursework for my masters degree at a smaller liberal arts college in Northwest Iowa.  It was about an 11 hour drive.  I remember becoming so engrossed in an audio book of Derek Jacobi reading the Robert Fagels translation of The Iliad while on that drive that I put off lunch for three hours because I didn't want to leave the world of the book.

Right.  Anyway, Specials.  So the book opens with the main character Tally.  Tally has been selected and made special.  The specials are a group of people how have been genetically and surgically altered to be hunters after the renegades who are trying to escape the life of the city.  Tally's bones have been strengthened with ceramics, her senses heightened, her teeth and nails turned into weapons, her skin serves as an antenna for a communication system that links her to other specials, and her perceptions have been sped up to the point where she can instantly analyze and respond to any threat.  Like other Specials, Tally has learned to cut herself to bring on this heightened perception.

Tally and her friend Shay, along with a group of other specials, go to a party to find out who is moving some kind of pills that may counteract the bubble-headedness of the pretty caste.  They find the perpetrator, but when they move in, things get tricky.  The gang behind the pills are outfitted with hoverboards.  They lure Tally and her team into the woods and then ambush them.  Suddenly. Tally and Shay find themselves trying to figure out how to rescue two members of their team that have been captured.  In attempted to get the members of their team back, Tally nearly destroys the city, discovers the truth, touches off a war, discovers hope, and finds her true love again (but can she keep him?)

Westerfield's storytelling is amazing.  It is intriguing, edgy, and sometimes violent -- yet he manages to stay authentic and engaging without really including anything that might caused the book to be challenged.  The one complaint I had about the audio book was that the voices of Tally and Shay were described int he book as emotionly flat and kind of metallic (though toward the end of the book, Tally begins to break out of that).  Carine Montbertrand's performace is right on -- but when you read the book, you don't have to listen to that voice in your head in quite that way.  I found Shay's voice in particular to be hard to listen to.

This book is ideal for high school, and probably best suited to English class.   Check it out  (or better yet, read one of the earlier books in the series.  It is a really fun book to read.

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