Published by Simon Pulse on June 13th 2017
Genres: young adult, science fiction
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From critically acclaimed author Cindy Pon comes an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi thriller, set in a near-future Taipei plagued by pollution, about a group of teens who risk everything to save their city.
Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.
With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.
Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?
There’s something about Cindy Pon’s writing that I connect with. This is the first book by this author that I have read, but it certainly won’t be my last. Her writing is a perfect balance of characters, description, and plot. One does not dominate the other the way I find with so many other books.
The setting for Want is Taipei, Taiwan, which is not a setting that is common in any genre, but especially not in young adult. Sidenote: I know YA is not a genre, but how else do you word that statement? I am loving the fact that books are taking me to places that I have not encountered in books before, especially Asian places. Now if only I could find young adult books set in Thailand, Laos, Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia, The Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Get on that, writers.
Jason Zhou is living in a very polluted Taipei. There are two classes of people in the city: meis and yous, and they are determined by wealth. Meis are the working class, and because they do not have as much money, they are forced to deal with the city’s pollution and deal with all the diseases and health issues that come with breathing the bad air. Yous are rich, and they can afford luxury cars and motorcycles, fancy apartments, and the expensive suits that shield them from the pollution, providing them with clean, filtered air. Zhou is a mei, but he must pose as a you when he and his friends make a plan to take down Jin Corp, the corporation that provides the suits to the rich yous and dominates the Taiwanese economy.
I think it’s important to note that Want was originally a short story, and as much as I loved this novel, it showed. When I first started reading it, I didn’t know that, and it wasn’t only until I was two-thirds of the way through the novel that I found that out. It makes sense though. The book just didn’t go as deep as I wanted it to go into the world-building and this (what I think is an) alternate Taiwan. There are a couple of clues that lead me to believe this book takes place in a future Taipei, but not that far into the future, which is sort of why I’m calling it an alternate Taiwan. I can’t be 100% sure because I read an eARC and things can be changed before publication, but no dates were mentioned in my copy. I really enjoyed this book a lot, but as I approached the end I started to realize that I never really got the depth that I wanted. It has a great plot and diverse characters that I enjoyed a lot, but I feel that the story stayed on the surface more than I wanted it to.
What I got of the world-building and setting, though, was absolutely excellent. This is a polluted Taipei, but it’s still an incredibly vibrant city with an amazing culture and people, dominated by a corporate tyrant that is paying off people in the government to keep the pollution coming so he can keep his company on top and making billions of dollars. I saw a lot of our current world and presidency in this book, actually. and it’s pretty terrifying. But the characters were inspiring in planning their resistance and takedown of Jin Corp. I rarely say this, but I think Want could have been a little bit longer to give me that small amount of detail that I felt was lacking.
It’s still a really great book, though, and I say to add this one to your list! It’s definitely one worth reading, even pre-ordering if you are a reader that does that.