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?
We live in tumultuous times. Pollution and global warming are on the rise, the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer, and we live in a society where corporations have a startling amount of power over our own lives. It is for these reasons that we need more books that tackle social and political issues, and books that offer critique of our own society. It is important, now more than ever, that we read books like Pon’s Want. We need books that not only examine such issues, but books that do so well and with a critical lens. There are very few books that ever satisfy my sociologically-inclined and discoursing heart, but Want was such a book – and more.
Set in the distant future, Taipei is perpetually covered in a thick layer of toxic smog. The rich people, or you (有) which means to have, are able to afford and wear technologically-advanced suits that provide them with clean oxygen thus protecting them against the pollution. Not only can they afford such suits, the you’s wealth affords them cosmetic surgery, simulated entertainment, and the luxuries and grandeur of high society. In contrast, the poor people, or mei (没) which means have not, are not able to afford such suits, and thus succumb to disease, homelessness, hunger, and early death. Within the very first chapter, Pon sets the scene of such a Taipei where the wealth disparity is visible and palpable.
The writing was fantastic; it transported me to a bustling and overcrowded city lit by the stark light of giant billboards, filled with the scents of good food and smoke. The imagery of Taipei was reminiscent of my motherland, where giant apartment complexes were built next to squat slums. And then I thought: The juxtaposition of wealth, even in such proximity, does not only exist in Want, which provoked the question: how different is this futuristic Taipei from our society today or what it may be tomorrow? How much longer until our future becomes Want‘s Taipei?
… 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 discourse in this book was amazing, and I was hooked and intellectually stimulated. The book tackles a variety of important topics, all absolutely necessary to discuss and reflect on. A big issue explored in Want is environmentalism. However, rather than present the ideas through self-gratuitous monologues, we see the consequences of pollution and industrialization manifest in the story’s narrative, a series of questions asking what if’s about our own world and environment. And thus, a distinct strength (and personal favourite) of Want is that its discourse and ideas are extremely accessible, or easy to understand and engage with, thus making it a perfect read for seasoned science-fiction readers as well as those who do not read science-fiction often. Essentially, Want does something more profound than answer the world’s socio-political questions: it asks thought-provoking questions that are difficult to answer and, most importantly, give you a glimmer of hope in unexpected ways.
Want may indeed be very topical, but it also possesses a compelling story that carries itself with exceptional momentum. Complete with dangerous missions, including infiltration, reconnaissance, going undercover, and befriending the enemy, Want will certainly satisfy readers who love something a little more heart-stopping and thrilling. Of course, the story would not be the story it is without its phenomenal and memorable cast of characters. At the forefront is Zhou, the lead and narrator of Want. Best of all, set against the larger narrative, Zhou’s character development was gripping. Though determined in his mission, Zhou still experiences doubt and a unsettling awareness of the implications of his actions. His internal conflict provoked me to contemplate and weigh out what was more important: the so-called ‘greater good’ or the common good, when both entail destructive consequences?
Maybe by the end of all this, I wouldn’t be able to look at anyone in the eye. Or maybe I’d do just that, and simply not care any longer.
Although Zhou was a great lead and narrator, I was inevitably drawn to his friends. I found myself loving every single one of them, each character a vital game-piece necessary to complete their ambitious mission. And when the friends are not working together to take down corporations, they are eating together and laughing. Zhou and his friends reminded me of summer days when I hung out with my friends, eating and laughing together. In other words, seeing such friendships, one so real and relatable, gave me such a warm and genuine feeling of nostalgia. The romance was splendid too – there was fantastic chemistry, which was balanced by a dynamic pulled taut by circumstance and differences. You would think that, amidst bringing down hegemony and corruption, there would be no time for a romance, but it was a welcome and meaningful addition to the story.
So when I say, ‘everyone needs to read this’, it’s not only because Want is absolutely spectacular, but it also has thoughtful critique of modern society. Indeed, Want is, and has the potential to be, a momentous cornerstone of young adult science-fiction. Hard to fault, everything about Want is incredible: characters, story, action, discourse — everything. If you haven’t read Want, I implore you to read it; it has my highest praises, highest esteem, and highest recommendation. An effortless favourite of 2017.
Rating: 5 / 5
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A group of friends work together to take down a corrupt corporation.
Perfect for: Readers who love science-fiction with accessible discourse, want an exciting and fast-paced heist-like story, and want to read a book that tackles important social issues, especially environmentalism.
Genre: Young adult, science-fiction
Recommended? Yes, yes, a million times yes.
Book trigger/content warnings: mild violence
- Have you read Want? What did you think of it?
- What is your favourite young adult science-fiction novel? Why is it your favourite? Did it change your perspective about something?
- What is your favourite book of 2017 so far?