This was a well-written sequel. The first book was kind of meh for me, but Westerfeld is really getting into his stride in this book. The writing was very crisp, the character development and interactions were engrossing and believable, and it was a fun little read.It's not something that had me gripping the edge of my seat, totally invested in the characters and wondering about them even when I set the book down, but it's definitely a neat, well-constructed book that I wholly recommend. It's fun and well-written. It's got a great underlying concept, the plot moves along quickly, and there's never really any moments where I ended up just sort of rolling my eyes at the main characters and saying, "Really? That's what you're doing? Really?"I have to say, though, the thing about this series, the thing that keeps bringing me back to them and making me want to learn more about the characters and the world, is the underlying concept. I want to know more about the history of their society, how the Rusty plague was developed and released, why their Special Circumstances thinks it's okay to program their society. I want to know more about their science, their neurology, their social programming tools. I want to know if New Smoke is the only town free of body modifications, or if there are others. I'm just really curious about the entire concept -- it's all fascinating. It's one of the most incredible visions of a dystopian utopia I've read. Unlike 1984 and A Brave New World, this series doesn't start out with an unhappy protagonist, longing to escape an ugly world trying to present a perfect surface. Tally loves her world and yearns to fit into it perfectly, to fulfill all the expectations of her society. She wants nothing more than to fit in. I think that's part of why I didn't like the first book much -- Tally came across as so empty-headed and shallow to begin with. Now she's much more developed and interesting, a more vibrant and full character. As she learns more about her world and all the lies and manipulations, she learns more about herself and her expectations. She learns more about friendship and love, and how society has shaped her. It's so interesting to watch her mature and change and grow, and it's fascinating to see her struggle with her love for her world, her desire to want the world as she knows it to exist, with all the technology and professed humane and ecological benevolence, but at the same time she's faced with growing contradictions and questions about her preconceptions and beliefs.