Specials, the conclusion of Uglies, Scott Westerfeld's amazing young adult science fiction trilogy, has just been published. The Uglies trilogy is an adventure story about a totalitarian dystopia where social order is maintained through rigid stratification of society: young people are surgically modified at 16 to a statistically average concept of perfect beauty, whereupon they become "Pretties," ready to live their lives as productive, vacuous members of society. The looking-glass logic for this is that it enhances democracy, since a world of physically perfect people is one in which no idea is discounted or elevated merely because it is spoken by someone so attractive that we want to believe her or him.
These are cracking adventures stories, telling the tale of Tally Youngblood, an unwilling dissident who finds herself embroiled in adventures within the limits of the all-powerful city and in the badlands that lay without, where betrayals, love, and friendship are enough to motivate the book's characters, but not enough to save them from the ceaseless machineries of control.
It's hard to talk much about Specials without giving away spoilers: it is, after all, the final volume in a trilogy defined by nail-biting cliffhangers. I can say this, though: Specials picks up where Pretties (book two) left off, with a new power coming to ascendancy in the person of the Cutters: young people who are turned into crack troops by the Special Circumstances secret police. The Cutters slice their bodies with ritual knives to trigger their enhanced strength and reflexes, as well as their ruthless, remorseless devotion to accomplishing their set tasks.
Like Uglies and Pretties, Specials is part parable of life as an adolescent struggling to define your identity in a conformist world; part dark and unflinching look at the very real mental disorders that this impossible circumstance visits upon many young people.
Think of this as a cross between SE Hinton's Outsiders and Ender's Game: a series written to be devoured and adored by young people — and one that will challenge and inform the way that they think about the cruel impossibilities of coming of age in the twenty-first century.