Genre: Thriller, YA
Publication date: November 3, 2015
by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
"No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better."
Teenagers at Wisconsin's Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.
-A copy was provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review-
At first glance, NEED by Joelle Charbonneau sounds like the fricking bomb. Its premise speaks of the following:
- A small town full of selfish high schoolers;
- A social media tool that promises to fulfill your every need if you do certain conditions;
- A heroine who has a brother who desperately needs a kidney transplant.
This was basically me:
But unfortunately, while I do agree that this was a fast-paced novel, it wasn’t something that left a huge impact in me.
Let’s talk about multiple, emotionless, deadpan-like POVs.
For a premise like this, I do understand the need of having multiple POVs, especially since you have a tempting social media tool that promises to fulfill even your most extravagant wishes for a price. It’s something that affects the people on a very large scale, and we won’t be able to witness and feel its magnitude if we don’t get to see it from the eyes of more than two people. The book, at the very least, accomplishes the minimal requirement – we got to see so many students being enchanted by this website and doing everything they can just so they can obtain what they think they need (a new computer, a date with the hottest guy, a gun, an A+ on their school test, etc) – but they lacked the emotional pull, which isn’t exactly a bad thing in this case, but it’s important for me as my own kind of reader. I found many of the POVs (some only appeared once or twice) forgettable and dare I say, cheesy. But of course the geek wanted a new computer! But of course these cheerleaders wanted a date with the hottest guy! Their individual character profiles felt half-assed, making them feel excruciatingly predictable and making me cry a little bit inside because if they were a bit more fleshed out and made more realistic, they could have been an amazing character study on how social media as a whole takes away our empathy because we feel detached to the sufferings of others when we’re behind our computer screens.
But I digress.
Another thing is that it was hard for me to take the premise seriously. Don’t get me wrong: I love how it sounds like on paper, but how it was executed – that’s another matter entirely. Talking about ths in length would mean putting my hand into the spoiler jar, so forgive me if I’m vague here, but I guess how it was all explained in the end just felt too good to be true and it didn’t suspend my disbelief at all. It was way too cheesy and it reminded me so much of those mystery/science-fiction novels where in order to create some sort of drama ripe of conspiracies, they would go towards the unrealistic zone. (If you want to see what it is, check out the spoiler) View Spoiler »Basically, the website is a social experiment conducted, funded, and executed by the government, and in order to get their results, they drive these kids to kill and harm each other, BECAUSE HOW ELSE WILL WE SEE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL, MENTAL, AND EMOTIONAL EFFECTS OF SUCH A TOOL ON THESE SELFISH TEENAGERS, AMIRITE?! « Hide Spoiler Instead of going, “OMFGWTFCHICKENBBQ!!!! THAT IS AN AMAZING CONSPIRACY!!!” I went, “OMGWTFCHICKENBBQ. HOW CHEESIER CAN THIS BOOK GET?!”
Thanks but no thanks for the cheeseburger, book! The big reveal ended up being anti-climactic because of this! -____-
It definitely is a fast read, though, I can tell you that. And to a certain extent, it does let us see how social media can make us feel indifferent to other people, especially when seeing something through the computer screen is a far cry from seeing real suffering personally. It asks the question, to what lengths will you go in order to obtain what you think you need, and how peer pressure and societal norms are defining what we think we need. However, if you’re the type who wants your book to be more grounded to reality and make it more emotional, read at your own risk because you’d more than likely end up disappointed. Think of the premise as something like a “very much dumbed-down Dan Brown-like modern conspiracy for teens with multiple POVs”.