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?
I am usually against relative book references. Comparing books to each other is always deeply flawed and often creates unrealistic expectations. However, I’m going to break that mindset this once because I think this book can be compared well to a few others. Want is basically what would happen if you took Proxy by Alex London (my favorite dystopian book) and combined it with Six of Crows (another fantastic duology), and then sprinkled in heavy doses of environmentalism and critiques of capitalism. The result is a fantastic science fiction novel that does not disappoint.
I was hooked on Want from the beginning; the world is well-developed, and the near-future setting makes the problems so real. Cindy Pon takes us through the plot at breakneck speeds, and I was captivated throughout every twist and turn.
Where Want is special lies in the fact that it succeeds where many other futuristic scifi novels (especially YA) fail: it makes you think. Throughout my reading I was constantly thinking about this world, about the divide between the mei and the you and how easy it is to think only of your own needs, about the way corruption prevents action that doesn’t turn a profit, and how to many people it’s better to learn to adapt to a problem than to try to fix it. Questions on these themes were continually discussed in this narrative, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them even when I had to put the book down.
Want doesn’t only have a fantastic, thought-provoking plot; it also has deeply engaging characters. Our main group of 5 were all intelligent, loyal, and a diverse little found family who were easy to love. However, my favorite character was easily Daiyu. In the interest of avoiding any spoilers I won’t say anything specific, but just know that she’s great.
Unfortunately, I had a couple small problems with this book. The main issue was that I think it needed to be longer. I love a scifi book where I’m constantly being pulled along by the action, but some parts of this novel happened so quickly that they felt a bit underdeveloped. I think Pon should’ve spent a bit more time on each scene to create a less breakneck pace. I also thought the ending was really rushed, and that the epilogue pulled everything together a bit too neatly. There were still loose ends that I can’t wait to follow up on in later books, but the epilogue felt a bit like a “where are they now?” section at the end of a movie based on a true story. Ultimately these things were relatively insignificant to my overall enjoyment of Want, as I still loved the book.
Finally, Want is an amazing example of a diverse science fiction novel. It takes place in a non-Western setting with an entire non-white cast, and I really appreciated all the characters of color and the way Chinese/Taiwanese culture was present throughout. There’s also a cute little f/f side romance where one character is heavily implied to be bisexual (there’s a reference to a past relationship she had with a guy), which is always a plus.
Overall, Want is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in a fast-paced, diverse science fiction novel that will definitely make you think.