First, thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and Netgalley for allowing me to read an e-galley of this. I got to this a little bit after it was published, as you know I’ve been behind on my e-galleys, although I’m hoping to get back ahead this month. I enjoyed this author’s Testing trilogy, well the first two books, I haven’t read the third yet. But I felt that was a very similar story to The Hunger Games. This story, Need, is a contemporary story that stands out all on its own. I really enjoyed it, it was another book that just recently I’ve had trouble putting down because I needed to know what happened next. It is also a staff rec for me at the bookstore where I work part time.
The story is told through several different viewpoints, all students at a high school in Wisconsin. There is a website that has popped up, called NEED. It is offering students an opportunity to ask for what they need if they do something that the website asks them to do. Now I love the first thing that shows up on the website:
WANT: A DESIRE TO POSSESS OR DO SOMETHING. A WISH.
NEED: SOMETHING REQUIRED BECAUSE IT IS ESSENTIAL. SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
To me that totally set up the story. The first people who get in on the website only have to invite a certain number of friends to join in order to get their “need” granted. The first requests are things like iphones, money, tickets to concerts, etc. But one of the main characters, Kaylee, what she asks for is really a need. Her younger brother needs a kidney or he might die. But so far she’s found no one who is a match for him. Their father left when he got sick, and so she doesn’t know if he will be a match. She does what she is required, invites other people to join. Soon, once everyone at the high school has been invited, the requests from the website become different. They don’t seem like anything big. Leaving a note at someone’s house. Delivering a box of cookies to someone’s house and just leaving them on the porch. Digging a hole in someone’s yard and putting a doll in it like a grave. But soon these little errands don’t seem so innocent. The girl who gets the cookies is allergic to peanuts, and there are peanuts in the cookies. The grave dug is in Kaylee’s yard, and she knows it refers to her brother. Someone’s dogs are killed. Fires are set. Pills are exchanged that cause someone to not get the medicine they need. People are kidnapped. When Kaylee figures out that the website is what caused the hole to be dug in her yard, she tries to alert the police to the website. But it goes down and they can’t see what has happened.
After Kaylee begins to look bad, it comes back up, with a promise of her need not being granted if she does something like that again. See one thing I forgot to tell you, it’s kinda like fight club, one of the rules is you don’t talk about it. When someone that Kaylee cares about is kidnapped, she starts to worry about figuring out who is really running this site, and getting all the craziness stopped. Other kids on the site will play a part too. One of them is enjoying the things he is being asked to do because he enjoys hurting people. One enjoys it because he knows that is something he wants to do some day, and is smart enough to try to figure out exactly what is going on and work the system to his benefit. In the end Kaylee will not only be faced with potential death, but find things out about her family and best friend that will devastate her, even while they do explain a lot of what has happened.
And while I started suspecting who we find out is orchestrating it all at one point, the reason they are doing it is a good twist, one I didn’t guess. I really liked this book a lot better than I liked the Testing trilogy. It is was so unique and really a great story. I definitely recommend it!