Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Need is a fun book about a social networking site and the teens in a small Wisconsin town who get caught up in it. Kaylee gets an invite to join a site called NEED, and while she has misgivings she goes ahead and joins. The site is invitation only and promises to give you anything you ask for- although it cryptically differentiates between "needs" and "wants". Clue #1 people. Kaylee is a bit of an outcast due to her single minded devotion to finding a kidney donor for her brother- she has gone so far as to peek at students' medical records- and as a result she is not very popular. Her best friend Nate however is quite popular, and he sticks by her no matter what, although it soon becomes obvious he has feelings for her.
Most of the kids are asking for new phones, a car, stuff like that, but Kaylee asks for a kidney for her brother. Assuming she will be turned down for such an outlandish request, she is shocked when her request goes pending. All over town meanwhile strange things are happening as kids with "wants" are fulfilling certain requirements to get what they want- the site sets conditions they must meet. This quickly and predictably escalates into chaos and it's not long before deaths occur, and with kids posting their exploits online it becomes obvious that NEED is more than just fun.
I liked this book, in spite of the somewhat ridiculous premise (I don't mean a social networking site that gets out of hand, that seems plausible, but just some of the reactions to it) and I read it in one sitting. The story is told from Kaylee's perspective primarily, but there are also chapters from the POV of various students who make requests and must therefore perform tasks.
Need explores the anonymity the Internet offers, and how people us that anonymity to do or say things they would not otherwise. It also touches on the alienation and anger that a teen can feel, the isolation or peer pressure that can cause someone to do something terrible and rationalize it away. This is also a YA story all the way, with parents who are either not around or clueless, but that didn't really bother me. It's a fast read and while the secrets behind NEED might be a tad unrealistic, they're also chilling and thought provoking.
I've never read Joelle Charbonneau before but based on this I may very well explore more of her books. certain elements seemed a little implausible but by and large this was a good book with an intriguing idea and a nice payoff.