Its hard enough to get me into sci-fi, make it YA and I’ll do my best to skip it. So why did I decide to pick up this one? Simply because my friends will not shut up about it (plus the cover is stunning) and I can see why.
“…the truth was a harsh and ugly one: in order to change the status quo, we had to be destructive. Seize control of the narrative. Redirect the plot.”
The book is written in the point of view of our main character, Jason Zhou, who lives in the highly polluted city of Taipei. This entire book is set in the future; a future that may not lay so far from our own time. Zhou and his friends Arun, Lingyi, Victor and Iris hatch a plan to finally make a move and infiltrate Jin Corp, the evil corporation capitalizing on people’s suffering an the destruction of nature. Zhou must impersonate one of the rich yous and become one of them in order to befriend Jin’s sole heir and daughter, Daiyu Jin. Once that’s settled? Bomb the evil guys, find the cure, save the world. Easy right?
In this world you are born either a you or a mei. Yous live in excess and have access to the most advanced tech needed to survive the acidic rain that falls down daily on the streets of Taipei and the privilege remain oblivious to the damage that has been done to the world. Zhou’s group (or more suitably, Lingyi’s group) is consisted of meis of course.
Cindy Pon leads us through the intricacies of human relationships and how not everything is necessary black and white; us versus them; yous vs. meis. With obvious criticism towards today’s exploitative society, Cindy Pon makes us check our own privilege as people who benefit from a system and government that is doing nothing to preserve our environment and our people. To say its an eye-opening and important conversation is an understatement.
Moving on to the story:
It only takes one thing to steal my heart.
Awesome. Group. Dynamics.
The one thing I’ve seen lacking in YA in the past few years; unwillingly replaced by romance as the main plot point. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get the appeal of a cute teenage romance filled with angst and drama but sometimes I just wanna see how people work together. I’m simple like that.
WANT had all of that and more. Not only is this group precious to my heart, but they also kick tremendous amounts of ass several times throughout the book. I love strong and fierce characters. I love three dimensional characters! Well-rounded personalities are what I want to sink my teeth into when I pick up any book of any genre. This rag-tag group of teens (all PoC, all with issues of their own.) made me rot for them from start to finish. Admittedly, my faves were Lingyi and Victor. Lingyi is your typical lavender haired hacker with a heart of gold. She’s the mom of the group and also, the love of
my, excuse me, Iris’s life. Victor is a cocky rick kid who is also plenty mysterious. He keeps his heart hidden but we all now he’s just a big old softie. You guys know I love the softies.
I only docked one star because I felt like the pacing dragged a bit in the middle and the romance between Daiyu and Zhou felt a bit forced. Regardless, the narrative style is very beautiful and to the point, making it a quick read for anyone who picks it up; a good characteristic to have when dealing with YA. I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy.
As far as I know, WANT is getting a sequel and I’m ecstatic to see what else these kids have to give. Watch out for Cindy Pon guys, we’ve got a winner in our mists.
Mei: without; pronounced “may”
You: to have; pronounced “yo”
Want is set in a near-future Taipei, where pollution is extreme, and big corporations contaminate for profit. Cindy Pon’s world building is excellent and incredibly immersive. It’s easy to believe that this is what our world can become in 70 or 80 years time. We can see that this is direct criticism to today’s society; a society more concerned with profit than environmental collapse.
I’m never a big fan of sci-fi worlds, because they often seem too complex and unbelievable for me to immerse myself in. However, in Want, there’s a seamless bridge between the present and this near-future Cindy writes, each new concept or contraption explained without being overly simplified.
Our narrator is Jason Zhou, a hardened mei boy from the streets who has a particular love for butterfly knives. Zhou is loyal and determined, smart and cunning. He does whatever is needed for the mission, which was very admirable to me. I thought of him as a Slytherin, putting his goals above everything else; I loved that about him. Something else that’s amazing about Zhou? He’s a bookworm. *cheers*
Through Zhou’s mission we meet Daiyu, sole heiress to Jin Corp, the corrupt corporation that Zhou and the gang are trying to take down. With Daiyu we see that things aren’t actually black and white; that having the opulent lifestyle of a you doesn’t necessarily mean heartlessness and ignorance. Pon’s writing is so nuanced in the way it explores the different types of privilege in that society, never making it seem heavy handed or insincere.
My favorite aspect of this book by far was the group dynamics. Zhou isn’t a lone wolf, in fact he’s not even the leader of the group. Zhou, along with his friends, Lingyi, Arun, Victor, and Iris, all use their different skills and work together to take down Jin Corp. They’re all a tight-knit family, relying on each other when the rest of the world has forgotten about them. I loved that each member of the group had a deeply developed storyline which made me love each and every one of them. (My favorites are Lingyi, Iris, and Victor!)
The diversity here is wonderful, and it’s obvious that there was never any tokenization involved. Zhou and Daiyu are Taiwanese, (Zhou being biracial), Lingyi is Chinese and bi/pan, Iris is Asian-born (ethnicity unknown), Victor is filipino, and Arun is Indian. Lingyi and Iris are in a SUPER ADORABLE relationship, one that I actually shipped more than the main couple (oops).
The only reason I knocked a star off my rating was because of the pacing. I loved the constant pace the book was setting, where each twist and turn was leading up to something big. However, when the something big happens, the pacing suddenly speeds up so much that it felt like there was no time to process everything that was happening.
Despite that slight issue, I still highly enjoyed this book and the way it was written. After reading Want I was left emotionally compromised and wanting to know what happened next. I immediately placed a hold on the rest of Cindy’s books because I couldn’t get enough of her writing. This is honestly one of my favorite books of the year, and I highly recommend it.
“We had wanted to change the world. This was only the beginning.”
If you enjoy teens teaming up to destroy evil corporations, a bookworm boy who plays with knives, incredible group dynamics, and intricate world building, Want is the book for you. Don’t let it pass you by.