Title: NEED by Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”
Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.
Featuring a unique but socially relevant storyline, NEED by Joelle Charbonneau is a fast-paced and riveting young adult mystery/thriller. Enticed by a new social networking site that promises to give them what they want and/or need, the students attending Nottawa High School are soon drawn into a sinister web of seemingly innocuous tasks that take a menacing turn.
Kaylee Dunham typically eschews social media but after her friend Nate Weakley sends her an invitation to NEED she signs up in hopes of obtaining a kidney for her younger brother. Membership for the website is by invitation only and after the invitee signs up, they send in their request. But before the request can be granted, they are given instructions that must be followed to have their wish fulfilled. Although the assignments are innocent in the beginning, the students are then required to perform more ominous tasks. Kaylee is the only person willing to break the rules and reveal the truth about the site, but her history makes her an unreliable source of information that no one, including her mother, is willing to believe.
Kaylee is obsessed with finding a donor match for her younger brother, DJ and her desperation to help him lead her to some pretty harebrained schemes. Her relationship with her mother is quite strained and Kaylee is angry with her for not doing more to find her father, who abandoned the family soon after DJ’s diagnosis. Her actions have left her socially isolated but fortunately, Nate has remained her steadfast (and only) friend.
While Kaylee’s request on the NEED site is selfless, the same is not true for her classmates. The requests are mostly benign and fall into the “want” category instead of being an actual “need”. No matter how outlandish the request, each one is filled as soon as the tasks are completed. Not knowing what some of these requests entail, many teenagers are horrified by the results of their actions, but fear and embarrassment make it impossible for them to tell anyone what they have done. As the situation spirals out of control, Kaylee makes a shocking discovery about who might be behind the NEED website, but will she be able convince anyone that she is telling the truth before it is too late?
NEED by Joelle Charbonneau is an intensely compelling and suspense laden young adult novel. The storyline is thought-provoking and the mystery surrounding the NEED website is quite intriguing. Unexpected plot twists, startling revelations and a pulse pounding race to uncover the person behind the NEED website culminate in a dramatic and action packed conclusion. A very clever young adult novel that I highly recommend to readers of all ages.