Monday, 25 June 2018

Want by Cindy Pon

Want by Cindy Pon is a near-future science fiction YA book set in Taiwan that stands alone but is also the opening of a series. It's the first book by the author that I've read, though not for lack of trying; most of her other books are unavailable in Australia and Europe and it felt like I had to wait a while for Want to make it to Australia. Hopefully the planned sequel will arrive more promptly.

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect 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?

This novel is set in a near-future Taipei in a world where pollution has gotten bad enough that the rich walk around in environment suits and the poor die young. Zhou and his friends want to change the status quo and hatch an ambitious plot to do so. It involves infiltrating the world of the rich in the hope of helping the poor of Taipei. (The title comes from the idea of the divide between the "haves" and the "wants".)

I really enjoyed this book. Although I ended up reading it over a longer period of time than I usually do with YA books (for external reasons), I was consistently engaged with the story and the characters. It's told in first person from Zhou's point of view, meaning we see the most into his world, his past and his feelings. He sits somewhere in the middle among his friend group in terms of privilege and current circumstances, and we see the lives of the poor from several angles as well as the lives of the rich.

I found the story fun to read even when it was dealing with heavy concepts (aside from a few more poignant moments). I particularly found some events near the end delightful (but I won't spoil them here) and I felt that the book ended on a really strong note. Although the world's problems aren't completely resolved by the end of Want the main plot lines of the book draw neatly to a close. While I want to read the sequel because I enjoyed Want, I would also have been satisfied if no sequels had been planned.

I recommend this book to fans of YA, dystopias and near-future SF. In particular, readers looking for diverse settings in YA books will find much to like here. It's nice reading a book that's both not set in the US and acknowledges the existence of the rest of the world. I enjoyed Want and hope to read more by Pon in the future, whether it's the sequel or one of her other books (may they lose their geo-restrictions).

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2017, Simon Pulse
Series: Yes, book 1 of 2 planned so far
Format read: ebook
Source: Borrowed from the library (via Libby for Overdrive)

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