Specials: Uglies Quartet, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Specials: Uglies Quartet, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Popular sci-fi series bounces back with action, depth.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This future society will kick off some great discussions about beauty -- especially "cruel beauty." Teens can also talk about the dangers of conformity and groupthink; how do they compare to the risks of offering individual freedoms?  

Positive Messages

Conveys the importance of thinking for yourself, not avoiding confrontation, and taking responsibility. And while it explores the dangers of groupthink, there's also a call for balance -- between allowing absolute freedom and caring for the Earth by quelling people's often-destructive natures.

Positive Role Models & Representations

After the special operation, Tally works hard to feel like herself again. She suffers from a lot of guilt about what's not her fault, but in a way that grounds her and reminds her to make up her own mind, take responsibility for her actions, and not engage in self-destructive behaviors -- like cutting and lashing out in anger. She doesn't ever choose one side or the other; she chooses her own side based on her strong beliefs.


Specials -- super-humans wired with an impulse problem -- are essentially dangerous weapons always doing dangerous things: jumping off cliffs, racing and crashing hover boards, setting off massive explosions with civilian casualties, and cutting themselves with knives to feel more "icy" or focused and in the moment. There's a sad, quiet death of a major character and a few hair-raising pre-op scenes -- one of which includes a near-drowning and during both of which the subject is awake and realizing what's about to happen.


One kiss. Tally is naked in an operating room and a prison cell.


One "hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking, including among teens.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Specials -- super-humans wired with an impulse problem and a superiority complex -- are essentially dangerous weapons always doing dangerous things like jumping off cliffs, crashing hover boards, and setting off massive explosions. As kind of a clique thing, they also engage in cutting themselves with knives to feel more "icy" (focused and in the moment). This behavior is eventually deemed unhealthy and sworn off by Tally, the main character, who is a positive role model in a number of other ways as well. That makes it almost worse to see Tally endure the death of character close to her, be unjustly imprisoned, and almost go under the knife while (yikes) still awake.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old August 13, 2015


I started reading this book with very high hopes. This book took my heart out, ran it over with a bus, then sent it to the dump. And not in the good way. There... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byemmyraee October 11, 2013


This book is amazing! I love the plot! I would say this book is good for ages 11 and up. There are a few bad things though. There is lots of drinking, making ou... Continue reading

What's the story?

Tally's not just any Pretty anymore. She's a Special, along with her frenemy, Shay. They're charged with hunting down the city's runaways and, if they're worthy, turning them into more Specials. Tally feels like she finally belongs, but nothing is the same without her boyfriend, Zane, left in New Pretty Town with his damaged brain and tremors after taking the wrong Pretty cure. Maybe if Zane were to run away again, he'd be made Special, too. But Zane's not going anywhere: He's collared like a dog with metal too strong to break without better tools. On impulse, Tally and Shay break into the armory to find the right equipment, unleashing a chain of events that threatens the cure, the runaways, and everything else.

Is it any good?

Way to bounce back -- where Pretties (book 2) was lacking in excitement and plot twists, SPECIALS delivers. Tally is again put to the test mentally, trying to regain her own sense of self after yet another mind-altering operation. But thanks to her body rebuilt for danger, she's also got some truly fast-paced, nail-biting action scenes. It's a good balance of thoughtful and "icy," as the Specials would say.

Westerfeld's future world opens up, too, exploring what happens in a city with more freedoms and an ever-expanding immigrant population. This is the depth the series needed to keep it special -- and expand it into its final installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Uglies series. Each book describes a controlling future society, a popular theme in many of today's popular books. What's appealing about this idea? How does the society depicted here compare/contrast with other future societies you've read about?

  • This book was once a trilogy, then turned into a quartet. What do you like about reading book series? Why do you think they're so popular?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and science fiction

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