Frighteningly Realistic: Want by Cindy Pon

Posted June 12, 2017 by Nick/ 14 Comments

Frighteningly Realistic: Want by Cindy PonWant (Want, #1)
by Cindy Pon
Release Date: June 13th 2017
Published by Simon Teen
Genres: Dystopia, Romance, Sci-Fi, YA
Format: ARC
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four-stars
Source: ARC received for review purposes

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?

ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


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I have been an admirer of Cindy Pon’s writing and stories ever since I fell in love with her Asian YA fantasy, Serpentine. I was very excited to read Want. It’s not exactly a genre that I gravitate towards, but I had an inkling that the author would craft an amazing story regardless of the genre, and I was right. Want easily sunk its claws into my attention, and until I finished the book, I was invested all throughout.

First of all, I loved the setting of Want. Cindy Pon painted a futuristic-Taipei that was vibrant, gritty and breathtaking in many ways. It’s a society that is so polluted that people have to wear fancy suits, custom produced by Jin Corp, in order to breathe clean air. Only thing, clean air in this version of Taipei has become a luxury, not a right. I think, for me, what made this world so enthralling, yet terrifying was how much of it rang true. This was incredibly realistic, and 100% something that can happen to our own world in a few years if we don’t take take the actions that need to be taken to protect the environment. It’s a scary thing to think about, but I’m beyond impressed and thankful for Cindy Pon for finding a way to educate her teen readers in a thought-provoking and compelling way through her words. Fair warning, Want may be a dystopia, but it’s not the most intensely action-packed story, which I liked. It’s strengths were in the underlying conversations about power dynamics, the environment, politics and social divisions. By not focusing on nonstop action sequences, Cindy Pon diverts the attention to the important stuff. As you can tell, the world building was magnificent, and that wasn’t the only part that was great about Want.

The cast was also brilliant. I am sometimes wary of reading books with male POVs, but Zhou’s male voice was yet another part that Cindy Pon nailed in Want. He was the perfect kind of hero for a book like this – thoughtful, compassionate, and brave beyond words. I admired his and his friends’ passion for wanting to save their city. His determination and kindness really shone through the story, and I really enjoyed being inside his head. His friends, another lively group of teenagers, were also fantastic. They were intelligent superheroes in a certain way, wanting to infiltrate Jin Corp, and fight to make their world better for the poor. I grew attached to all of them, and by the time the book ended, I was a little bummed out that my time with them was over. The romance in Want was also a part of the story that worked for me. It had a bit of a forbidden feel to it with Daiyu being the daughter of the CEO of Jin Corp. I worried that there would be trust issues since Zhou was playing a role around her, but it was handled thoughtfully. I appreciated the lack of drama when the truth finally comes out to Daiyu. I thought she and Zhou balanced each other out, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of them in the sequel.

I’m thrilled that Want turned out to be a compelling story, and even more excited that it’s a book that features an entirely diverse cast. Add this one to your TBRs, guys. You’re going to love it.

What are some books that you’ve read that have been terrified you with how much of the future they seem to foreshadow?
Let me know in the comments below!

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  • kindlemom1

    Yay for the male POV! We really do need more of these in all genres. So glad this was so good and so believable!

  • Interesting dystopian world..and I can see something like air being a luxury. So freakin’ scary. Wonderful review Nick.

  • I have been wanting to try Pon but have not :/

  • oh this looks super good bah kind of mad I passed up on this one. Maybe I’ll pick it up when it hits the stores. I do love this genre

  • The cover is awful. It made me totally skip over this book. I am glad I read your review, Nick, or I would have missed out. I will add this to the TBR. Thanks.

  • This is the first I have seen/heard of this and it sounds so interesting and different! Great review!!

  • I always think books that are realistic are more frightening than a straight up horror story, you know? Like, The Handmaid’s Tale scares the SHIT out of me because it could happen! So, my point is, this book sounds right up my alley!
    But seriously, that cover…it should go. If you hadn’t given this book the stamp of approval, I would have passed it right by.

  • Just read a review of this book today. I’m all over this! Sounds so good. I especially like the romance. 😉

  • Bookworm Brandee

    This sounds amazing, Nick, and I can tell it really had an impact on you. I just added it to my tbr. As for books I’ve read that I felt were realistic dystopia…well, Hunger Games for sure. Also Red Rising. Those are the only two I can think of right off-hand but I do love and hate it when an author can do dystopia in a way that frightens me about the future. Great review!

  • I have not read any books in the dystopia genre. This one looks good. Great review.

  • I’M STILL LISTENING TO THE AUDIOBOOK BECAUSE I’M SLOW.

    But I agree with you on everything! I love the setting and I love that Pon used pop culture markers to help place the time. Can I just say that my fangirly heart was a flutter at the mention of Jay Chou?

    I really love Zhou but I’m a bit on the fence in regards to Daiyu, maybe it’s because I’m only halfway through.

  • sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books

    This world sounds terrifying (I think my heart rate spiked a little thinking about air being a luxury)! But also quite interesting. I haven’t paid attention to this one before but I actually think it might be something I’d enjoy as well. Great review!

  • Dystopia is a genre that I’ve grown apart from, to put it lightly. I’ve not actually read a dystopian novel for years but this one might just suck me back into the genre. I love the concept of this book but the way it seems to mirror what could easily be our reality is downright terrifying but I’m glad that it’s being so openly discussed about in this book and can hopefully raise some awareness about our need to protect the environment. I’m a sucker for a male POV book so that’s another bonus for me haha.

  • This sounds awesome! It’s been ages since I’ve read a dystopian novel, so I think I might actually be ready to read another one now that I’ve detoxed after the onslaught of Hunger Games readalikes. LOL. Zhou sounds like a really atypical YA SF/F dude, which can only be a good thing in my mind (too many alpha-holes, imo) and I’m intrigued by the Taipei setting. You’ve sold me on this one, Nick!