Publishing Info: November 3, 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 30, 2015
Related Posts: The Testing (The Testing #1), Independent Study (The Testing #2)
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.
My experience with Joelle Charbonneau’s Testing Trilogy was a bit of rocky ride but nonetheless, I was super intrigued by NEED! I always love a good mystery and/or thriller and that seems to be a genre that’s gaining popularity in the past year or so in YA and looks like it will continue to grow in the years to come! I was anxious to read NEED in the hopes that it would be a book that totally turned my world upside down!
NEED started out with an interesting concept: a social media network for a small-town Wisconsin high school. It’s invite-only and students who wish to join have to invite a certain number of people (and later on, perform a certain tasks) in order for their NEED to be approved. I felt like this concept was incredibly intriguing and really could have gone so many different ways to totally hook me. Like The Testing Trilogy though, the execution just started to feel melodramatic, over-done, and really just not realistic.
The characters in this book were just awful people. Pretty much every student at this high school seemed willing to do some pretty deplorable things in order to get what they wanted (let’s be honest — they weren’t really needs), and it was pretty disgusting how easily they were able to talk themselves into thinking that what they were doing wasn’t really wrong. By the end of the book, even the main characters were starting to lose some serious moral guidance and it was just so hard for me to like anyone in the book because of that. I’ve read plenty of books where bad things have happened to characters, they’ve sought revenge, they’ve had to protect themselves or possibly use violence against another person, but usually that’s in the heat of battle or in self-defense. NEED just felt like a group of selfish brats who were willing to use people to get what they wanted and felt that they were entitled to do so and I think that was really the scariest thing about the book.
None of the characters seemed to have a lot of depth, either. I was already disconnected from them considering I was seriously questioning their actions but I didn’t really see that internal struggle or a moral battle to figure out if what they were asking for was really worth what they were doing. There were a lot of POV switches — both switching from character to character and switching actual points of view from first to third when switching — and I’m sure that didn’t help me get a grip on the characters either. Instead of showing me a new point of view, I felt like it took focus away from the main characters by spending a short amount of time with a secondary or even tertiary character that didn’t offer much in the way of personality or plot anyway.
I was hoping the ending would really bring things back around and leave me feeling a bit better about the book overall but sadly, I didn’t really enjoy the way it was handled. I had a hunch on how it might end and I was both right and wrong at the same time but in the opposite ways that I had hoped. There was a solid explanation of who was behind NEED and why it was created and yet I didn’t find it satisfying. Again, it felt like a far-fetched idea and didn’t really make any sense to me.
I was super bummed out that I didn’t enjoy NEED because I love supporting local authors and I’ve met Joelle Charbonneau a few times and she’s just so sweet! It’s sad to say that I think I just don’t click with her writing. It seems like too many things that add shock value are there just for shock value and there isn’t a real concrete explanation why they happen. I was hoping this would be the turning point for me with her writing but unless a future book gets rave reviews, I just don’t think I’ll be picking up another one of her books any time soon.
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Kaylee // Character Obsessions: Family, NEED, finding a donor.
Kaylee was… hard to read about. It was so incredibly painful to watch her search for a kidney donor for her brother — not because she was doing just that but the way she went about it. Look, you can’t go around school expecting your classmates to donate a kidney to your brother. A) It’s not you. B) They’re mostly minors. C) It’s creepy. D) It’s a HUGE freaking thing to ask of a relative much less a kid who barely knows you except for seeing you around the halls of the high school and may not even know your brother at all. She just was awkward and weird and I had some serious issues.
Kept Me Hooked On: Hating bad characters. I admittedly sort of liked when the characters were so awful that I… started to cheer when bad things happened to them. *hangs head in shame*
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. This book just didn’t feel realistic at all and the far-fetchedness of it made it feel super hokey.
Usually I know when my less-than-favorable ratings are a it’s-not-you-it’s-me situation but this isn’t one I’d recommend. It’s not TERRIBLE and I made it through and it was thankfully fast-paced but I wouldn’t really say “go read it”. If the ending was better, I’d say give it a chance but it didn’t even wrap up well for me.
BOOKS LIKE NEED
(Click the cover to see my review!)