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review 2020-01-15 23:44
Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras
Uglies, The Collector's Set, #1 - #4 - Scott Westerfeld

I read/listened to each of these books individually and did write-ups on each one, with the intention of writing a review covering the entire series. This is that review.

My individual write-ups can be accessed at the following links:


Note: While I avoided spoilers for each book, I did refer to events of earlier books once I got past the first.

The remainder of this review will be placed behind spoiler tags. Spoilers for all four books follow.

When the book begins, Tally Youngblood is three months away from turning 16 years old. She lives in one of those future dystopian worlds in which everything changes when you turn 16. (If you have read many YA dystopian novels, this is likely a phenomenon you know fairly well.) In the case of the Uglies-verse, everyone gets plastic surgery upon turning 16, transforming them from an "ugly" to a "pretty." The "ugly" stage lasts from age 12 to 16, and during that stage, uglies live in dormitories and attend school as they await their pivotal birthday. From birth to age 12, children are considered "littlies," and live with their parents in suburban communities. The 16-year-olds who undergo the operation are called "new pretties," and they move to New Pretty Town, separated by a river from Uglyville. The other life stages are "Middle Pretties" and "Crumblies," with other surgeries associated with them. (We never get many details about those, though.)

The inciting incident at the start of Uglies is Tally sneaking into New Pretty Town to crash a party, so she can see her bestie, Peris. (I spent most of Uglies listening to the audio and thinking his name was PARIS, but then I discovered in the text version that he's PERIS. PERIS?!?!?!) Peris is three years older than Tally, and she feels lost being separated from him. They once made matching scars on their wrists to show they would always be best friends, but the Peris she catches up with at the pretties party is not only beautiful, but he no longer has the scar.

Although she catches up with Peris at the party, the most significant event of the night is meeting Shay during her dramatic escape (she has used a bungee jacket to jump from the roof of the mansion where the party is being held and is on the run to evade patrolling marshals). Shay is also an ugly, who coincidentally shares a birthday with Shay, and has also sneaked into New Pretty Town because she misses 16-year-old friends. Shay and Tally spend the next three months becoming close friends, while engaging in "tricks," including sneaking out of the confines of the city into the "Rusties Ruins." (Rusties are basically us, the people who destroyed the environment, clear-cut land, and engaged in wars 300+ years before the action of the quadrilogy.)

On the cusp of turning 16, Shay reveals that she does not want the operation. She is running away to a place known as "The Smoke," where people live in "the wild," free from the conformity of the city. She leaves coded instructions Tally can follow if she decides also to escape to The Smoke. And while Tally still wants to become a pretty and resume her friendship with Peris, she is given an unexpected ultimatum. Dr. Cable, who is with a unit called "Special Circumstances," urges Tally to follow after Shay, infiltrate the "smokies," and use a tracking device (hidden in a heart-shaped locket), to alert the "Specials" to the location. If she does not fulfill the request, she will not be given the "pretty" operation. Reluctantly, she does as asked.

When she is reunited with Shay and is accepted into the group, Tally becomes increasingly sympathetic with their ways, and decides she does not want to betray them. During that time, David, Shay's original contact person and recruiter to the smokies, of course falls in love with Tally (because she's the protagonist of a YA dystopian novel). David introduces Tally to her parents, Maddy and Az, doctors who used to the "pretty" surgery and know the dark secret behind it. Not only does the operation give its recipient beautiful faces and super-healthy bodies, but it results in brain lesions that make the new pretties compliant and not terribly smart!

Tally believes she can destroy the tracking device by burning the locket, but instead that actually reveals the location to the smokies. So it's an accidental betrayal. The specials ("cruel pretties," per Tally's description) descend upon The Smoke. Most are captured, to be taken to Special Circumstances and given the surgery. David and Tally of course escape and are able to mount a valiant rescue. By the end, Shay has been made pretty, Az is dead, Maddy and David know about the accidental betrayal, and Maddy proffers a cure to pretty-headedness, which Shay (whom they have taken with them) refuses to take. Shay, wishing to do penance for the betrayal, offers to allow herself to be captured and made pretty, so she can take the cure.

Tally is pretty, living in pretty housing, and besties with Shay. Most of their energy is devoted to preparing themselves for parties and trying to get into the best clique, The Crims. Zane is the leader of that particular clique, and he annoys the heck out of me by having a cutesy device where he asks people how many "milli-Helens" something or someone has. It's a reference to the mythological Helen, whose face launched a thousand ships. So a "milli-Helen" can launch one ship. It's a silly measure of how awesome something is. Probably.

The Crims are all about pulling stunts and being "bubbly." Being bubbly means you're not just being a boring, placid pretty, and on some level, Zane and his clique-mates perceive their is something wrong with their brains. At the first party of the book, Croy infiltrates, to leave a special message for Tally. She and Zane later go on an adventure to retrieve it (after quickly becoming a couple), and have to climb into an old elevator shaft to retrieve a pouch containing two pills and a letter from Tally to herself. It was her informed consent, transcribed by Shay (because "kids today" don't learn to handwrite anymore, and Shay had learned in preparation for being a smokie). While Tally dithers over whether to take the pills, Special Circumstances hover cars create a sense of urgency. She and Zane quickly decide to each take one pill.

There is a protracted period where Tally, Zane, and other Crims wish to run away to the New Smoke (which Tally has semi-made up), but they can't because Tally and Zane have been fitted with monitoring bracelets. Much of the book is devoted to devising a way to get rid of the bracelets. Ultimately they do, but on escape night, Zane and Tally are separated, because Peris gets scared and decides to stay behind. Trying to convince him to come along slows down Tally, so of course, she ends up making a giant journey on her own (mirroring her journey in the first book; a pattern that repeats in Specials). Peris, by the way, is marginal in this book, and will be even more marginal in the next. It's hard to believe he and Tally were ever BFF.

The end of this book somewhat mirrors the end of Uglies. Maddy, David, Zane, and Tally are together, along with members of the New Smoke. Zane has been suffering from debilitating headaches, and Maddy reveals it's because the two pills were different. The one Zane took was the one that actually got rid of the lesions. But the pills work by unleashing "nanos" that eat brain tissue, and the second pill, the one Tally took, stops the nanos. So, the changes Tally has been going through (she has been getting more and more "bubbly") must have been placebo effect and maybe also sheer will. So, at the close of the book, most of the new smokies are fleeing, because the specials are coming, the specials are coming. But Tally won't abandon Zane, who needs medical care. And guess who the newest special is. SHAY! She jabs a needle into Tally's neck, and... CURTAIN!

In which I hate Tally.

Tally has been made into a special. And not just any special--a VERY SPECIAL special. Back in Pretties, Shay was so desperate to be bubbly she formed a "cutter" clique, who all got together and cut themselves to make and keep themselves bubbly. Somehow, all the cutters were made into teenage specials, and Shay is their "boss." Tally is part of this group, and she and her fellow cutters cut themselves and perform stunts to keep themselves "icy." It's like "bubbly" but with more clarity.

Becoming special involves more surgeries--face, brain and body. The specials have sharp features, coal-black eyes, super-strong, muscled bodies, knife-like teeth and nails, and sociopathic brains. They look down on anyone non-special as "random," and to them, pretties are all "bubbleheads." They are given to fits of rage and feelings of superiority.

The "cutter" specials spend all their time camping outdoors and patrolling New Pretty Town and Uglyville. According to rumors, smokies are colluding with uglies to bring the cure to pretties. Oh, noes!

Tally wants Zane to be made special, but there's a problem. He suffered permanent neurological damage from his cure (in Pretties), and he has slight tremors. Shay assures Tally that if Zane escapes, Dr. Cable will be convinced that he is "specials" material. They hatch a plot to help him and some fellow Crims escape and reach the smokies. This will involve finding a way to remove a collar from Zane (sound familiar?). Shay's plan for that involves breaking into an armory that has weapons dating back to the "rusties" time. It's an overlong, boring action scene that leads to disaster and later unintended consequences, but Tally and Shay get what they're there for, and Tally removes the collar from Zane.

There is a long, dull sequence involving Zane and his group of Crims (including superfluous Peris) going on a journey into the wild to find their contact who will take them to the smokies. Tally follows at a distance to make sure they make it, and at one point, Zane catches her. They kiss, even though he disgusts her now. He urges her to rewire her brain.

The Crims are taken via helicopter to a distant city called Diego. Tally stows away by holding onto the bottom of the helicopter. In Diego, Tally is shocked to learn that everyone has taken the cure. Uglies, pretties, middle pretties, littlies, and crumblies co-exist. Instead of having standard faces devised by a Pretty Committee, people have features and modifications of all kinds.

Meanwhile, Tally discovers that Maddy has also developed a cure for special-brain. Fausto, a fellow "cutter," has taken the cure and tries to stick Tally with a syringe so that she can, too. But she doesn't want to lose her special-mindedness, and flees. She is captured and brought to a hospital, where she is to be forcibly operated on, as her body is considered a lethal weapon. However, all hell breaks loose because Special Circumstances from Tally's city is waging war against Diego.

What? But that kind of thing doesn't happen anymore. That was a "rusty" thing, wasn't it?

Diego is being blamed for what Tally and Shay did in the Armory. This is being declared a "special circumstance."

During the mayhem, Shay helps Tally get away. Does Shay know that Fausto has been "cured" of his special-brain? You bet, and Fausto has cured Shay! Not thinking like a special anymore is a relief. But Shay believes that Tally should hold off on getting cured herself. The plan is to return to Dr. Cable and confess about the armory. If Dr. Cable scans them, it will be better if one of them is still special.

Oh, and there is one more thing. Zane tried to get a cognitive and physical upgrade, but something went wrong, and during the attack, the emergency system broke down. He's on life support, and he is going to die the moment he is unplugged. So he's about to die and it's all Tally's fault! She does a final goodbye.

Shay's plan is to leave at first light, so of course, Tally has to go off on her own while Shay is sleeping. Because she's Tally. Back at home, Shay is ready to make the confession, but she discovers that Dr. Cable knows who is responsible for the armory incident. And she blamed Diego anyway. Because it's a convenient excuse, and Dr. Cable is evil. Tally's new plan is to make the confession to the Council. But instead of being led to the Council, Tally is taken down to a sub-basement. Where the final confrontation with Dr. Cable happens. And the Villain Confession. Which Tally says she recorded with her special device. Which is actually the syringe that has the cure of special-brain. And Dr. Cable sticks herself with it, while trying to snatch it away.

So, the cure sinks in and the war is called off. World saved! Tally reconnects with David, and devises her "plan to save the world." She issues a manifesto.

So, at first glance, Extras seems to have little to do with the first three books, beyond being in the same universe, almost three years later--in Japan. But Aya Fuse, the main character, stumbles upon a hot story that appears to uncover devices that could destroy the world. So Tally, Shay, Fausto, and David show up. And there are alien-looking figures involved. But it turns out they actually want to save humanity by colonizing space. Who knew?

As described in my write-up of Extras, I was not a fan of Aya for the first third of the book. She lies to the Sly Girls, who don't want publicity, and pretends she's not into kicking stories anymore. Except she secretly still does. But the girl does grow and change. It's also fun to have the main cast of Extras interacting with Tally, Shay, Fausto, and David, and vice versa. In both cases, we get characters making comments that readers might have been thinking. The book provides some closure that was lacking at the end of Specials.

Tally is a reluctant heroine for much of this. In some ways, I felt Shay could have been a better protagonist. I wish she had accepted the cure for special-brain!  As suggested above, I felt Peris was really wasted in the series.  Westerfeld could have done something cool with a close, platonic friendship between a girl and a boy.

(spoiler show)
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review 2019-12-29 20:02
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld,Gregory Hedberg and Emily Tremaine, with a Preface By Tracy Atkinson Robert Rosenblum


3.5 stars on Booklikes.  This will round down to three stars on Goodreads.


I was on the fence as to whether to read this book/series.  I think my reasoning went something like this:  "Everyone gets plastic surgery at age 16, to make them 'pretty'?  That more implausible than most of the implausible scenarios in YA dystopians.  I think I'll pass!"


But this is the January 2020 selection for the Forever YA Book Club I belong to, so I decided to give it a try.  And It's intrigued me enough that I'm a bit over 1/4 of the way through the second book (Pretties) and planning to tear through the next two books, Specials and Extras.


I am thinking that once I've completed the series, I will write a big review covering all the books.  But meanwhile, I want to put down some thoughts about Uglies as it relates to YA dystopian tropes.


As mentioned above, in the world of Uglies, everyone receives plastic surgery upon turning sixteen.  From age 12 to their 16th birthday, they live in dormitories in Uglyville.  "New pretties" reside in New Pretty Town, spending their days and nights partying and otherwise entertaining themselves.


As you have no doubt noticed, if you have read many YA dystopians, there is usually a major change all of the characters undergo, more often than not at age 16.


Everything changes when you are 16.


The main character typically goes through the age-16 transition (but sometimes resists and/or avoids it). Around this time, the character learns THE TRUTH.  There is a dark secret being hidden from most citizens, about the way their society actually operates.  Usually, the 16-year old becomes involved in a resistance movement, and more often than not, becomes a leader (or sometimes THE leader).


In the case of Uglies, Tally Youngblood begins the book missing her best friend Peris.  Because he is three months older than Tally, he has had his "pretty" operation when she still has another three months to go.  She gets into some trouble sneaking into New Pretty Town to spy on Peris, meanwhile meeting Shay, who has the exact same birthday as Tally and is also missing friends who have turned 16.


Having looked forward to the operation her entire life, Tally is shocked to learn that not all Uglies want to be turned pretty.  There are rumors about Uglies who run away to live in "the wild."  There are rumors about a place called "The Smoke," where people live without the luxuries and technology of the cities.  


I don't want to include spoilers here, but I will note that this book has a touch of the dreaded "insta-love" many readers criticize in YA dystopian novels.  I had a hunch a character was on his way to becoming a love interest for Tally, but it still seemed very fast for him to suddenly think that Tally was incredibly smart and special.  (Our 16-year-old YA dystopian protagonists are just about always special in some way, no?)  The other thing, Tally being so smart and special felt a bit like an informed trait.  I wasn't seeing as much special and smart in her actions, vs. what she was being told about herself.


Something that intrigues me about the world in this series is the history the characters are taught about the "Rusties."  Rusties are their predecessors.  Before the current society formed, there was a world much like the one we have now.  People did foolish things like burn fossil fuels and wage wars.  They lived in large, industrial cities, and at some point, there was a huge disaster that they tried in vain to escape.  (I am somewhat reminded of Pompeii, but the hints point to a human-made disaster.)  The "pretty" operation was intended to create an egalitarian society.  If everyone has the kinds of facial features that humans are biologically programmed to appreciate the most, nobody will be favored or disfavored for their looks.  But of course, there must be more to the highly structured society.  Who is controlling the masses, and to what end?


To be continued, in my write-up of Pretties.

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review 2019-05-22 09:48
Schönheit als Allheilmittel
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Ich habe einen interessanten Zeitpunkt gewählt, um „Uglies“ von Scott Westerfeld zu lesen. Das Buch ist mittlerweile 14 Jahre alt und Auftakt der gleichnamigen „Uglies“-Tetralogie. Es lag recht lange auf meinem SuB, etwa dreieinhalb Jahre, weil meine Begeisterung für Young Adult – Dystopien seit dem Kauf deutlich abflaute. Als ich es im Februar 2019 aus dem Regal holte, folgte ich einer spontanen Eingebung meines Bauches. Das Timing hätte nicht besser sein können, denn während meiner Recherchen zum Autor fand ich heraus, dass Westerfeld im September 2018 begann, eine neue Tetralogie namens „Impostors“ im „Uglies“-Universum zu veröffentlichen, die bis 2021 vollständig erscheinen soll. Wir werden sehen, ob er mich so lange bei der Stange halten kann. Mit „Uglies“ erlebte ich auf jeden Fall einen vielversprechenden Start.


Alle Menschen wollen schön sein. Die beinahe 16-jährige Tally ist da keine Ausnahme. Nur noch ein paar Wochen trennen sie von ihrem neuen Gesicht und ihrem neuen Ich. Schluss mit ihrem Dasein als Ugly! Sie wird eine Pretty sein, in New Pretty Town leben und nur noch Spaß haben. Es ist so großzügig von der Regierung, allen Einwohner_innen zu ihrem 16. Geburtstag eine umfangreiche Schönheitsoperation zu schenken! Ist es doch – oder nicht? Tallys Freundin Shay hat Bedenken, denn der Eingriff ist keineswegs freiwillig. Kurz vor ihrer OP läuft sie davon, um in der Wildnis zu leben und bringt Tally damit in ernste Schwierigkeiten. Die Regierung stellt sie vor die Wahl: entweder, sie findet Shay und verrät ihre Freundin oder sie wird niemals operiert werden. Tally muss sich entscheiden. Wird sie Shay opfern, um pretty zu sein?


Ich hatte vor der Lektüre zurückhaltende Erwartungen an „Uglies“. Nur eine weitere Young Adult – Dystopie, nichts Besonderes, glaubte ich. Ich rechnete nicht damit, das Buch zu genießen und war darauf vorbereitet, häufig die Augen zu verdrehen. Deshalb freue ich mich, berichten zu können, dass mich „Uglies“ überraschend gut unterhielt und ich die Botschaft, die Scott Westerfeld vermittelt, sehr wichtig finde. Wie ihr euch sicher anhand der Inhaltsangabe denken könnt, behandelt die Tetralogie das Konzept von Schönheit. Die Geschichte spielt in einer undefinierten Zukunft, vermutlich mehrere Jahrhunderte nach unserer Gegenwart, nachdem eine fatale Katastrophe die Menschheit beinahe auslöschte. Was genau geschehen ist, lässt Westerfeld offen, er deutet allerdings an, dass umweltschädliches, ressourcenverschwendendes Verhalten verantwortlich war, wodurch „Uglies“ gerade jetzt hochaktuell ist. Einige Vertreter_innen der menschlichen Spezies überlebten und gründeten eine Gesellschaft, die die Fehler der Vergangenheit zu vermeiden versucht und nach Regeln funktioniert, die auf mich skurril und repressiv wirkten. Alle Menschen müssen sich anlässlich ihres 16. Geburtstags einer drastischen Operation unterziehen, die ihr Äußeres perfektioniert. Wir sprechen hier nicht über eine kleine Nasenkorrektur, nein, es handelt sich um weitreichende Anpassungen, die den kompletten Körper betreffen. Alle Makel werden beseitigt – was als Makel gilt, obliegt der Regierung. Die Operation dient nicht nur als physische Optimierung, sie ist ebenso ein Initiationsritus, der den Übergang vom Kind zum Erwachsenen markiert. Aus heranwachsenden, durchschnittlichen Uglies werden bildschöne Pretties, die als vollwertige Mitglieder der Gesellschaft nach New Pretty Town umziehen. Der gesamte Prozess wird als erstrebenswert propagiert und auch die Protagonistin Tally sehnt sich danach, eine Pretty zu werden. Wozu das Ganze? Offiziell liegt die Annahme zugrunde, dass staatlich verordnete äußerliche Perfektion ein friedliches Zusammenleben garantiert, weil Intoleranz, Diskriminierung und Neid beseitigt werden, wenn alle gleich schön sind. Ein bisschen wie der Effekt, den man Schuluniformen zurechnet. Somit gilt Schönheit als Allheilmittel gegen die Konflikte der Menschheit. Ich sehe darin eine sehr interessante Theorie, die sich zu diskutieren lohnt. Könnte da etwas dran sein? In der Realität von „Uglies“ ist dieses Gedankenspiel natürlich nicht mehr als eine Illusion, die die wahren, perfiden Absichten der Regierung verschleiern soll, was die burschikose, unkomplizierte und sympathische Hauptfigur Tally im Verlauf der Handlung unsanft herausfindet. Obwohl diese einige Logiklöcher aufweist, fühlte ich mich in meinem Lesespaß nicht gestört. Das Buch las sich leicht und angenehm; ich stolperte nicht über Aspekte, die nicht völlig plausibel waren, weil ich die Aussagen, die Scott Westerfeld über Schönheit, Oberflächlichkeit und Individualität trifft, als wesentlich relevanter empfand als die inhaltlichen Entwicklungen. Er geht dabei nicht subtil vor. Im Grunde könnte seine Intention auch in roten Leuchtlettern auf dem Cover stehen, so offensichtlich ist sie. Da wir jedoch über einen Roman für Jugendliche sprechen, finde ich seine Direktheit nicht zu aufdringlich und sogar angemessen. Geht es um Body Positivity, kann man gar nicht explizit genug werden.


„Uglies“ treibt unsere gesellschaftliche Obsession bezüglich Schönheit auf die Spitze und überraschte mich mit der äußerst konkreten, eindeutigen Botschaft, die der Autor Scott Westerfeld präsentiert. Der Tetralogieauftakt lässt wenig Interpretationsspielraum, den es in diesem Kontext meiner Ansicht nach allerdings auch nicht braucht, weil Westerfeld die Handlung und das Design seiner Dystopie seinem thematischen Schwerpunkt unterordnet. Jede Facette der Geschichte dient dazu, Kritik an übertriebenem Schönheitskult zu üben und dessen Gefahren zu betonen. Das Buch ist aufgrund seiner Unzweideutigkeit lesenswert. Die zielgerichtete Gradlinigkeit von Westerfelds Herangehensweise imponierte mir und überzeugte mich, den Folgebänden eine Chance zu geben. Manchmal ist die Absicht einer Geschichte eben doch essenzieller als ihr Inhalt.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/scott-westerfeld-uglies
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review 2018-11-24 00:00
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


A world where you are an ugly until your sixteenth birthday. And then, you undergo a surgery and you become pretty. And life is perfect. Except, maybe it isn’t.

This is one of those books where you visualise a world in so many details, and feel like you’ve lived there all your life. Also a book that captures society for what really is. A very pleasant and enjoyable read.

I received this book as a birthday gift. Have a look at my birthday book haul on my blog.

Uglies is the first book from the series by Scott Westerfeld. A dystopian world about ”uglies” and ”pretties”. A world in which society is split between beauty. A place where the ”uglies” are separated from the real world until they do a surgery and become pretties. Then, they grow up and join the world of pretties, where they are allowed to do everything they weren’t allowed before. They attend parties and have fun, and they don’t worry about anything.

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait to become pretty. All her friends have already turned pretty before her, and she is excited to join them in this marvellous world. But just weeks before her birthday, she becomes friends with Shay, who is not so sure whether she wants to become a pretty.

When her friend runs away and escapes the operation, Tally has a choice: find Shay and bring her back, or never turn pretty at all. And when Tally goes after Shay, she discovers that the world she believed in, might not be the real one…

I absolutely loved this book with all my heart. A beautiful world forming, an interesting scenario, great plot and interesting characters. I enjoyed reading about the world, how the author put the society together, and how it all worked out.

The characters were not as engaging as I would hope them to be. Even though you felt for them, you couldn’t connect a lot. Just a little bit, enough to make you wonder what will happen next. It was enough for me to keep turning page after page in the middle of the night.

The world the author created and the way the society works in this book is incredible. The ”uglies” and ”pretties” subject will always be matter of a discussion. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if your face has imperfections. It doesn’t matter how you look like. People love other people for who they are inside out, for the friendships, for the moments spent together, and for how they make them feel.

Another thing I loved was the subject of protecting the nature. I loved the little moments and theories of destroying a certain plant for a better tomorrow for all the rest of the plants.

‘’Nature, at least, didn’t need an operation to be beautiful. It just was.’’

An amazing book, a world where you can visualise every single detail, even though you’ve never been there. A dystopian society and a battle between brains and beauty. I enjoyed it so much and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

I strongly recommend it to all of you, my friends!

A question for you all – Would you do the pretty surgery or not?
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review 2018-05-13 10:13
#30 - Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Extras (The Uglies) - Scott Westerfeld

Again, I did not enjoy this as much as I had the first time I read it (something like 10 years ago). Aya is annoying as hell, I mean I can’t blame her given the society she lives is but all she cares about is fame and recognition, and it is really something I hate. Tally is not as present in this book as she is in the other three but she still has an important role. She was also really annoying and I kind of wanted to punch her in the face. Again, given what she has been through, can’t blame her either…


The plot was not bad at all but I had issues with the pacing. It also seems kind of childish but maybe because I read it when I was way younger, I don’t know.


Anyway, this book was not bad at all, I even strongly recommend this series, but I guess I am disappointed because I thought it was going to be way better and maybe I shouldn’t have re read it.


As I already said in my review of the other books of the series, I am very excited about the new books to come!

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