Tally is now a Cutter, a new branch of Special Circumstances. The Cutters, led by Tally's longtime friend Shay, arrive at an uglies party looking for outsiders crashing the festivities to stir up trouble. Tally and the other Cutters are disguised as uglies, which causes Tally to feel nostalgic as she watches the poor uglies awkwardly interacting.
Tally has been completely remade. Her bones are now aircraft ceramic, light but indestructible. Her muscles repair themselves. She can hear the faintest, most distant sound through her skintenna. All her senses are supernaturally sharp --- and she actually smells the party-crashing Smokey.
Smokies have been smuggling in pills with nanos, which destroy the brain lesions that keep pretties stupid and mellow. Unfortunately, the nanos can also destroy brains entirely (Tally has seen this firsthand when the pills destroyed her boyfriend Zane's mind). Now Tally moves to arrest the Smokey, who escapes by zooming up into the air by use of a bungee jacket. The fugitive is rescued by Smokies on hoverboards, including a leader Tally well remembers: David.
Immediately, Tally and the other Cutters are on their hoverboards in a thrilling race to capture the Smokies. An extra incentive drives Tally and Shay --- their personal vendettas against their mutual old boyfriend and now enemy, David. Even with the Cutters' many advantages, however, the Smokies shock them by retaliating in unexpected ways, ultimately leaving Shay and Tally to fight the outsiders in the most primitive manner. The Smokies have the advantage in the struggle, kidnapping Shay and another Cutter and stealing the Specials' hoverboards. Tally is alone and stranded in the forest until she recovers and is soon back on the hunt.
When Tally reunites with Shay and most of the other Cutters, she learns something astounding: The pills were to be delivered to one of the Crims, a troublemaking clique. That Crim is Zane, Tally's boyfriend. She is dumbfounded. Why hasn't Zane joined Tally if he's recovered?
Tally and Shay visit Zane, who is still a pretty. He is also not quite right and is still damaged from the pills. However, he's helping the Crims pass out thousands of pills, resulting in a new breed of intelligent pretties. Tally asks Zane to betray his Smokey allies, and he reluctantly agrees to do it for her.
While Tally still feels love for her boyfriend, she is also repelled by his disabilities. If she and Shay can help him escape, they'll all be in peril. Yet Zane may become a Special after he helps bring the Smokies down. Their mission begins with the most dangerous trick ever. Will Tally and Shay survive it --- and the consequences?
Packed with action in the face of relentless danger, the stakes continue to increase with each plot twist. During Tally's quest she discovers one surprise after another, but when she arrives at her destination, she's in for the most shocking revelation ever. This page-turner dishes up thought-provoking social commentary on government, cliques, humanity, appearance and redemption --- all wrapped up in a tremendous science fiction adventure --- and is a satisfying and triumphant conclusion to this extraordinary trilogy. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on May 9, 2006