DIVERSE BOOK REVIEW: WANT by Cindy Pon – A scarily accurate future, with incredible diversity and setting.

Summary: 

  • my rating: 4 stars
  • published by: Simon Pulse
  • genres: dystopian, speculative future, young adult
  • diversity: Han main character, side Philippine character, side Indian character, side Chinese bisexual character, side f/f relationship
  • where to purchase: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Synopsis:

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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?

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I honestly feel like YA Lit is doing the most work these days. Everyday I read a YA book and am stunned by it’s depth, awareness and perception of the climate and audience it is writing for. It is a genre I have seen make strides just in the last few years – and while work is far from over, God, there is some quality books coming out of YA authors. And WANT is one of them. 

WANT has been getting a tonne of attention on my twitter lately, especially among diverse book bloggers and I am so thankful that this brilliant, fun action book ended up on my radar.

WANT is a “dystopian” set in future Taipei, Taiwan. In this distant future, pollution has reached an intolerable level, forcing humans to buy expensive body suits which allow them to breathe the toxic air. The rich can afford to buy these suits, as well as other privileges that come with a wealthy life: expensive clothes, body modifications, cars and technologies. The poor, on the other hand, cannot afford the suits. They die young due to inhaling the toxic air, and live in intense poverty on the polluted streets. Sickness, hunter and hopelessness is rampant.

Our main character, Jason Zhou – as well as his core group of friends learn that Jin Corp, the main producer of the suits, may be deliberately worsening pollution and inhibiting sickness in the poor in order to sell more suits. Disgusted by the treatment of the poor of the city, the crew decide to infiltrate and take down the corrupt government in an attempt to elevate and assist the poor they live among.

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Although this book is technically a dystopian – calling it one seems unaware. I don’t think a future in which pollution and corruption is a direct threat to the lives of the poor is very hard to conceive. In our own world, we are seeing capitalism spiralling out of control, the increase in the gap between the rich and the poor, rising pollution, climate change and the continued hesitancy of many big governments and corporations to do anything about it.

For me, my favourite thing about WANT and why I think it’s such a brilliant book is that it’s topical. The environmentalism and social justice theme was well explored throughout the entire novel. The theming was very tight, at no point did it feel Pon wasn’t sure where she was taking this story. This is awareness and education, mixd in which a genuinely fun story and action plot is a story type becoming more and more common and I have always loved it. The dystopian aspects felt not only realistic, but scarily predictive. I would actually call this speculative fiction – like the Handmaids Tale – more then dystopian.

I also liked how the characters engaged with the issues they faced in society, and their approach to dealing with the issues. We’ve seen chaotic, morally grey characters more and more often in YA. Six of Crows being a good example. But introducing a group of chaotic good characters was fresh, and something I’d like to see more of. Jason and his friends may want to take down a massive corporation for the inside out, but they’re genuinely doing it for the greater good and to fight the corruption they live amongst everyday. This kind of activism is also very relevant in todays social mileu, and chararacters who fight against the evil they see in this kind of way was both fun and also kind of inspiring (but don’t worry, I’m not going to start plotting my take down of Google or anything anytime soon)

Setting wise, WANT is incredible rich and well written. I’ve never been to Taiwan, but this book explored and explained the setting so well it felt like I had. You can tell Pon knows and loves Taipei, the richness and depth in which the setting was explained was amazing. My sister, who HAS been to Taiwan also read this book – and she claims she felt like she’d been back there and this book made her travel sick. So thats pretty high praise coming from her.

The only two aspects in which I felt WANT let me down was character and plot.

The plot is good, I loved the way it revolved around it’s central themes. But the thing I didn’t like about the plot was the main trope it used. Aka, the “infiltrate a group by befriending the daughter of the leader”. I have never been a massive fan of this trope, and I wasn’t a massive fan of it here. It’s always felt like the most boring way to write a heist story and I’m not going to say I hated it, because I didn’t, but I didn’t love it either.

I also felt the side characters were lacking in depth a little. The main character, Jason, was well written and so was his love interest Daiyu. But the side characters were not as well explored, and I would have loved to see more of them. The scenes with the group bantering, hanging out and teasing each other were some of my favourite and so I would have liked a greater focus on the cast as a whole.

Representation: 

Jason, the main character, is ethnically Han. Victor, one of the members for the group, is from the Philippines. Arun, also in the crew is Indian. There is a side relationship between two Asian women, Lingyi is bisexual. The other girl, Iris, has no sexuality explicitly stated.

Shenwei, a Taiwanese/American reviewer writing on ReadingAsiam: 

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In Conclusion: 

WANT is a unique book in the YA genre. The authors note shares that this is the first book in YA to be set in Taiwan, and that to me is so so exciting. We need diverse books! This book is just so fresh, so fun, so exciting. I adored the theming. The setting and culture, written so expertly as this is #OwnVoices was a delight. I think this is a book which really exemplifies why diverse literature from own voices authors is so so important.

I highly recommend WANT to everyone. I really do. If you’re a fan of Six if Crows you HAVE to read it.

I am so looking forward to it’s sequel RUSE coming in 2019 (So far away! the cruelty !!)


 

Thankyou for reading my review, I’d love to know what everyone else thought of WANT!

xo jamieson


6 thoughts on “DIVERSE BOOK REVIEW: WANT by Cindy Pon – A scarily accurate future, with incredible diversity and setting.

  1. This sounds definitely interesting! I really don’t read enough sci-fi and even less speculative fiction/future, so this’ll be added to my to-read list asap 💫

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooo I’ve seen some mixed review (mostly with the same complaints as you) for this one but it def sounds interesting in regards to the setting, themes, and diversity! Great review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou! And yeah, I’ve seen some lower reviews because I do think the pacing is a little off? But for me the theming and setting definitely made up for that. It was one of the most unique books I’ve eve read

      Liked by 1 person

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