Saturday, 18 October 2014

Need by Carrie Jones

The Need Series

Published: December 23rd 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Website: Series website

This book is one of the books that I have re-read many times since I first read it; I have read Need so many times it is only second to my re-readings of Pullman’s The Golden Compass. It was my first distinctly YA book that I had ever read, and from that moment on, I knew that I wanted to work with teens in a library. Although my aims have changed slightly since then, Need is a book that propelled me in a direction that I greatly enjoyed.

Like The Replacement, this is another book that I adore and I happened to see the pile of negative reviews on Goodreads. Instead of minding my own business and getting the cover image and leaving, I read some of the overwhelmingly negative reviews. One day I’ll learn, but in this review, I’ll address some of the issues that readers have that I disagree with. But what I see a lot of is people comparing her to Meyer and claiming Meyer is better (lol cute), or compare her to Stephen King (that's not even fair), or they say she was riding the coat tails of the Twilight epidemic and ripped Twilight off (and they write this as though Twilight is the most original and worship-worthy literature ever written).

            After misfortune befalls Zara White, her mother sends her to Maine to live with her grandmother Betty. Zara has to deal with the usual problems of being the new kid in town, and she realizes the guy that was stalking her in her old city is now stalking her in Maine. This isn’t just any stalker; he leaves gold dust behind in the snow, and he calls her into the woods to get her lost. During all this, boys are going missing from the town. Zara is pulled into the world of the paranormal, and she has to uncover what she has to do with the pixies to stop the threat.

            Need is set in a familiar high school setting and in the creepy, snow covered woods that has dangerous predators lurking behind the trees. It is snowing unusually early, giving the reader the impression that even nature is working against them. The aspect of the “boys” (young men, actually) going missing, and the revelation of their fates is particularly chilling, and I always enjoy a darker tale.

While I did find the dialogue and the writing a bit forced, I find Need to carry a more believable voice than other YA books (like Green's The Fault in Our Stars). Sure, Zara complains about the cold weather so much that Canada would like a word with her, and she says “freaking” a-freaking-lot. But she’s believable to me. You might not like her, and that’s completely different than being poorly written.

The protagonist is a nonaggressive pacifist. She is involved with Amnesty International and writes letters urging government leaders to release political prisoners and bring justice to all. YA lit is littered with protagonists that have no personality. Some say she's too perfect. Some say too flawed. Overwritten, underwritten. While she might not be everyone’s cup of tea, she has a personality that actually stands out above the Bella Swans of YA literature.
There are some beautiful descriptive moments of Zara with the man she calls her father. He definitely shaped her to be a progressive and protective young lady, but not in a way that was forceful. They shared interests like running and Amnesty International. Though he has passed away before the novel begins, his presence is recurrent in the rest of the series.

            I’ll talk about the covers because a common gripe is about the covers to this series. Need’s cover has the trees running up the girl’s neck and she has gold lips. Without trying to spoil too much, the act of kissing is more than “sucking face”. It is a change and something to be feared. The man who stalks Zara leaves behind gold dust. The danger in the novel is in the woods. The cover is what originally interested me enough to pick up the hardcover book and read the blurb. Not sure why people like to exclaim that the cover is meaningless.                     

I'm not sure how they managed to "research" the pixies using Google, and I had that problem with Lost in Starlight, too. In this instance, I know they have to get their info from somewhere.

There are lots of books/films/animes/videogames that start with the protagonist moving to a new area, being out of place, and hating it. If you can only throw out Twilight as a comparison, saying that Jones is ripping off Meyer, I'm going to say that you are not as well read as you like to think. It was done before Meyer. It is a trope that will always be used. It's ingrained in our storytelling because it is a situation that nearly everyone has, or will have, been through.   

            I’ve read some people have an issue with the “issue” of incest in this book, most from people who admit that they did not finish the book (DNFers). There actually isn’t any incest in this book, and the book even points it out. If you are going to write a scathing review of a book and include this kind of issue, you should at least flip ahead to see if it actually happens.

Ending and How Characters Change
Mild spoilers ahead!
I appreciate the ending because it does go against her beliefs. She knows there wasn't another option at the time. She had to make a decision and she did. Did you know that people change in real life? In fact, in books we call this a character arc. Zara changes even more in the next books.
For the people who say that they will not read the rest of the books because they don’t think Zara would have allowed the ending to happen, I say to stick with Twilight and characters that don’t grow.

Final Verdict
            If a library would like to infuse more paranormal adventures into their YA collection, give Need the space. It sports a character with a personality and who changes during the course of the book, a spooky atmosphere, and imaginative baddies. There are four books in the series, but this book acts like a stand-alone novel. I highly recommend it to readers who like the paranormal (with a stock that includes pixies and weres) and teen romance.