Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Need

Zara is having a very difficult time coming to terms with her beloved stepfather's death. In fact, she's having such a tough time that, in order to shake Zara from her depression, her obsession with phobias, and her general apathy, her mother has sent her away from her home in Charleston to live with her grandmother in Maine. It is cold, dark and depressing in Maine, and Zara is hurt and furious with her mother for sending her away. But Zara's affectionate, no-nonsense grandmother is delighted to have her come to stay.

She does warn Zara, however, to be home before dark - a teenage boy has gone missing, and Zara needs to be careful. When Zara starts her new school, she makes an immediate enemy (for no apparent reason) and meets a few potential friends. Issy is a perky, outgoing girl who immediately takes to Zara, and there is not one but two very hot guys who are very interested in getting to know Zara better.

Worries about friends and school fall to the wayside when it becomes clear that there is a man stalking Zara, a man she saw in South Carolina, and at the airport when she landed, and by the side of the road on her way home from school. There is something strange about him, something that seems too unbelievable to be true. But that's not the only unbelievable thing that Zara is about to learn about her New England home.

This is a thoroughly engaging dark fantasy novel for teens. It has some of the typical elements of dark teen fantasy with a dash of romance that are also evident in the first Twilight book, it is true - but I found that it dealt with the elements more skilfully, with characters that I believed in (and did not want to strangle). It also packs some most interesting twists and turns - some that were evident from the outset, but others that took me by surprise. The book is written in the present tense, which I occasionally have problems with because it can make the story feel contrived. But not in this case. Here, I felt as though I were discovering things along with Zara, and it worked well.

I enjoyed the irony of the fact that Zara is so involved with Amnesty International, yet it appears that innocent boys are being tortured because of something to do with her - and that she sees herself as a pacifist, yet she's being put in a position in which she has no choice but to fight. She wants to make a difference in the world - she wants to save others. Yes she finds herself in the position of needing to be saved, and she hates it. She is struggling to find out what is really going on, because until she does she is reacting to events in a passive way, when she needs to find a way to take control of the situation. She is a strong character, despite her struggle to accept her father's death, and she does her best to act, rather than react, and I like that about her. She is also endearingly honest, and I liked that about her, too.

I also loved Zara's grandmother. She's a tough woman who works as an EMT and does her best to be there when Zara needs her. Here is a discussion they have about Nick, who helped her out during a particularly strange and scary incident:
"He likes you, Zara. He took care of you. That's what men do when they take a shine to you."

"He obviously has some rescue-the-damsel-in-distress gene, which is totally inappropriate because I am hardly a damsel in distress," I say, a little too bitterly. Even I can hear it.

"Hardly. You're too busy trying to rescue people you don't know." She points at my pile of Amnesty International papers.

"Like that's a bad thing?"

"It's a good thing, Zara. It's just. Well...we all need a little bit of rescuing from time to time. It doesn't make us weak."

"He doesn't
like me like me."

"You know, there's nothing wrong with admitting he likes you. There's nothing wrong with feeling good things, Zara. Your dad doesn't want any of us to stop living."
I also liked the chemistry between Zara and Nick - it feel natural and very sweet. Here they are in art class together:
He motions to the glue brush. "Can I have some?"

I start to grab it so I can pass it to him. He reaches for it at the same time. Our fingers touch, and the moment they do the fluorescent lights overhead flicker and then fizzle out.

Everyone moans, even though we can all still see. There's enough light from outside filtering in, just not enough for us to really focus on the finer details.

Nick's fingers stroke mine lightly, so lightly that I'm almost not sure the touch is real. My insides flicker like the art room lights. They do not, however, fizzle. I turn my head to look him in the eye.

He leans over and whispers, "It will be hard to be just your friend."
This novel should have appeal to fans of Holly Black and Melissa Marr, and to anyone who enjoys a creative and skillful combination of creepy setting, sympathetic characters, romantic elements, and an intriguing supernatural threat. The ending is a satisfying conclusion, but it leaves a sense that the solution is only a temporary one. And, in fact, there is a sequel due to be published in January, 2010. I look forward to reading it.

Need by Carrie Jones (Bloomsbury, 2009)

Also reviewed at:
Angieville: "What I liked about Ms. Jones' writing is the way she created a truly scary world and villain with very little overt description. I have no idea what he looks like. In my head he's this huge dark form without a face and he is the scarier for it."
Beyond Books: "I was hooked on the mystery of it all. I liked the characters (although I was slightly irritated by all of Zara’s Amnesty International obsessions) and I loved the writing. The dialogue was witty and fun and the hints of sarcasm that came from Zara cracked me up."
J. Kaye's Book Blog: "I think the characters are what I loved best. Zara’s grandmother is a hysterical piece of work. The problem I had was Zara seemed a wee bit too slow at putting things together."
Karin's Book Nook: "The suspense is palpable when Zara struggles to make sense of the odd events in her life. Readers will come to love many of the characters and will definitely want to know more about them by the end of the novel."
Reader Rabbit: "Need is okay. It's not bad and it's not fabulous. It's not good enough to pay the hardcover fee, but when it's out in paperback, it wouldn't make a bad purchase."

13 comments:

  1. I LOVED this book! And I can't wait for Captivate as well. And yes, I was even surprised at times during the story - it was refreshing!

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  2. I had this book out from the library but ended up returning it unread. Will have to try again soon!

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  3. Cat - I'm not surprised you liked this one, too - it was a lot of fun! I'm sorry I missed including your review - I have remedied that. Have you listed your blog with Fyrefly's book blogs search engine? I only used that to look for reviews, and I didn't see yours.

    Kailana - I hope you get the chance to try it soon. I'd love to hear what you think of it!

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  4. Definitely sounds intriguing!

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  5. Nicola - It is! Hope you'll have time to give it a try.

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  6. Ooh interesting! Great review, thanks.

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  7. I hadn't heard of this one until your review, and it sounds good. I love the cover, too.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  8. Mariel - I think you'd enjoy this one, whenever you're in the mood for a paranormal YA - it certainly fits the bill!

    Anna - I love the cover, too. It does a great job of evoking the chilly New England atmosphere of the book.

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  9. I've heard this compared to Twilight many times so I'm a little cautious about picking it up but I'm glad that you enjoyed it! I may just give this a try one day.

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  10. Ladytink - I hadn't heard the Twilight comparisons before I read it, or I might have been reluctant, too. So it worked out well!

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  11. I'm looking forward to the sequel, since I enjoyed Need. I absolutely loved Zara, her personality and nature were so well-defined, along with her desire to help others being clear throughout and that made it all the more effectual when she needed help. I've noticed before that when a book deals with control issues, strong character development seems to be the key.

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  12. Joanne - I completely agree. Without that strong character development, the book would not be nearly as effective!

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  13. I think the cover was my favorite part of this one, but I did enjoy reading it. I'm so glad to hear there's going to be a sequel! I reviewed it here: http://fatalisfortuna.blogspot.com/2009/03/review-need-by-carrie-jones.html

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