105 Ways to Give a Book

Not Special For Me

SpecialsI’m sure that I am supposed to like Specials by Scott Westerfeld. Everyone else seems to. But hey, I hated Tulane even before Fuse #8 made it cool to bring down the bunny book, so maybe I’m just one of those people.

I had three problems with Specials. The first is what we might call a personal problem. I am terrible with series. I retain almost nothing from the books I read. While this makes it easy for me to jump from book to book quickly, it makes reading the books in a series months or years apart just about impossible for me. In fact, I usually avoid series as they are starting so I can pick it up later. When they have the three books, I’ll read through them all one after another.

For me, reading Specials was like walking into a movie halfway through. And not some family movie, either, more like walking into The Usual Suspects. (Who is Keyser Söze? What’s going ON?) I was halfway through Specials before I could remember significant plot points from Pretties — and I still needed to ask two teenage girls at my middle school booktalking session what happened at the end of Pretties. So I am a series loser.

I am going to attribute that problem mostly to me and not to the book — though maybe a little more back story would be nice. However, I found the second problem that I couldn’t buy the over-the-top action in this book as compared with the others. I mean, I already have to buy into the idea that every sixteen-year-old gets an operation to become pretty. Okay. I have to buy into the idea that the powers that be want to keep everyone bubbleheaded so they can regain control. Okay. I have to buy into the idea that they can remake a person from the bones up to be a Special. Okaaaay, you’re starting to lose me. Now I have to buy into the idea that this Special can do all the things — and not to give anything away, but there are lots of things — the book would have them do. Okay, you lost me.

I liked Uglies because Talley was average, her strength was internal, and her skills were her own. I liked Pretties because she had to think her way out of her own predicament, and the action was good. In Specials it is all about the super technology, and I didn’t like it.

The third problem with the book is a minor detail that loomed big for me through the whole book. In changing the Cutters, they were given razor-sharp fingernails and teeth. Does anyone else see just a practical problem here? I mean, sometimes I tear a fingernail a tiny bit, brush hair back off my face, and leave a little scratch on my forehead. What would I do with razor-sharp fingernails? And don’t you think those razor-sharp teeth might chafe a little on the inside of your lips? Every time the teeth or fingernails were mentioned, I was annoyed for the next few pages.

Retractable razor-sharp fingernails, now that might be cool. If only I could pick them up at Wal-Mart.

4 comments:

Little Willow said...

I really enjoy Scott Westerfeld's books. I have yet to read Specials because I am being really cruel to myself and delaying gratification by not allowing myself to read this one yet because 1) I don't want the series to be over and 2) I don't want high expectations to ruin it. (I did the same thing for Blue Noon, the last book in the Midnighters trilogy. It came out in February; I stayed strong, then read it last week.)

lablover said...

I just finished Specials. I read Uglies and Pretties during the month before. I had a hard time keeping up with my eighth graders. I bought eight copies of each book and gave them out as I finished each book. Every copy was fully subscribed until school ended this week. Most kids finished a book in about a week. A dozen kids bought their own books and parents told me that they were reading along with their children.

I find the most fascinating aspect of this science fiction trilogy is that the protagonist is a female and a strong protagonist at that. She is almost up there with Ender in Ender's Game.

If I had read this trilogy at the beginning of the school year, then I would have found the money to buy one hundred copies of each book to let all of my classes read the series together.

MotherReader said...

I'm admittedly not a sci-fi fan, and felt like the other books - esp. the first - had more crossover appeal. This one lost my interest, but I agree that it is still is a good book for teens with a strong female character.

For a more through review of the plot, check out Jen Robinson's Book Page

Jen Robinson said...

I have that problem about remembering plot points, too. I think that it goes along with reading fast (I have less of a problem with books I listen to on MP3). But I read all three of the Uglies books within a couple of months, so I was ok on that no score. No, for me it was just having trouble identifying with Tally once the powers that be started messing with her brain. But I did love Uglies, and I agree that these books fill a need for SF books with a strong female protagonist. Thanks for the link to my review.

It's cool that we both reviewed the book around the same time. I actually wrote mine on Friday, but did a delayed post (I did several reviews at once, and wanted to spread them out).