Review: Need

Need by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

NEED is an interesting take on the prevalence of social media and the human psyche. The basic plot is that there is this demented new site, exclusive for the Nottawa High School students – private, anonymous and secret (basically the ultimate nightmare on the internet) which provides the users whatever they want, in exchange for tasks. The entry task was pretty simple – they just invite others. But once all the students are on it, the game escalates from minor pranks to deadly assignments. The kids are like addicts – they can’t stay away from the lure of easy pickings. Even Kaylee, an outcast who wants a kidney donor for her brother, can’t resist putting in a request. But there is a difference between want and need – and all the others went for wants.

Though the story is multi-POV, there are four central POVs – Kaylee, Bryan, Ethan and Sydney. The last two are shady enough that I first suspected them. It’s like the PLL game – guess who’s A? and was pretty thrilling to read in that way. The author also sprinkled clues throughout, so if you are paying attention, you arrive at the culprit soon enough. Though I must say, it was getting all mixed up. It was totally messed up in the way that the pranks were done – just to see if the kids would do it. Naturally, the ending reveal was a bit anticlimactic once you realize that fact. And I was a bit unsatisfied as how it was boiled down to something worthy of a conspiracy theorist’s ideas. I would expect a private company or maybe a demented millionaire, but really? An institution that actually has to present proof of results, and expenses. It seemed a bit unresolved, and even the last line, which in normal cases would have been worthy of a cliffhanger, came across as yet another Resident Evil movie.

It was a great book nevertheless, full of action and mystery. Slightly skimmed over characters, though; it would have been more exciting to get into each character more deeply. But that would have also made the book lengthier. Not a perfect balance between action and characterization but good enough.

Received a free galley from HMH Books for Young Readers via Edelweiss; this does not affect my opinions or the review.

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