"How do you live breathing this every day?" she asked in a weak voice.
"We don't have to live for very long," I replied.
She dropped her handkerchief and stared at me with red-rimmed eyes. "That's not funny," she said.
I smiled. "I wasn't trying to be."
*Jedi hand wave*
You want to read Want.
Rats. It's not that simple, is it? The Force has a strong effect on the weak-minded, but you are not weak-minded. May I then attempt to convince you to read Cindy Pon's absolutely fantastic near-future sci-fi set in Taiwan?
(Except for all you guys who heard "Cindy Pon" and immediately bought the book. You're all good. But please stay and read my review anyway?)
I'd hazard a guess that the majority of people, reading a sampling of the news on any given day, would extrapolate from that information that the future is going to be ... Not Good. Possibly even doubleplus ungood. But assuming humanity hasn't irradiated itself into oblivion and left the planet for the roaches to colonize, the environment is going to be severely messed up. To put it mildly. It is in this future that Want is set.
In the future, the divide between the you and the mei--the haves and the have-nots--will be determined by the financial ability to buy an envirosuit to protect oneself from the toxic air. Oh, you can survive without one, but your lifespan will be significantly shorter, and let's face it: surviving is not the same as living. For Jason Zhou, this reality is all too close to his heart: his mother died because she didn't have the money for proper medical care. Every day he goes out into the streets of Taipei and sees people literally dying at his feet, while the you drive around the city in their fancy filtering suits, perfectly polished and dressed. They're guaranteed good health, while most mei live to be forty, tops.
Jason hangs with a crew of delightfully misfit-y misfits, but even the most ragtag of bunches has to eat, so they come up with a plan to hold a rich mei girl for ransom. Jason selects and captures his target, taking her to a secluded area near the mountains. To his surprise, she's not a cosseted rich girl, crying about broken nails. Daiyu is brave and curious--and he even feels a tiny bit of remorse when he wipes her memory and sends her back to her father, who happens to own the megacorporation that produces suits.
However, there's a hitch: Jason's best friend Arun's mother is a scientist trying to persuade the government to pass more legislation for environmental protection and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, evil rich dudes have no compunctions about killing brilliant scientists, even if that means orphaning her son. That's enough: the teens won't stand for this anymore. They're going to take down Jin Corp.
So, think Ocean's Eleven meets Six of Crows meets Firefly, but actually, truly diverse.
Arun takes after his mother in the sciencey-brains department. He's quiet and loyal. Victor, a tall, aloof Filipino teen, has all the right moves and connections. Lingyi is the unofficial leader of the group, and an amazing hacker. Iris' fighting abilities make her deadly, if you want to push things that far. And Jason is the guy who's going to infiltrate the you inner circle and gain access to Jin Corp's security system.
But once there, he meets Daiyu again--Jin Daiyu. Yeah, turns out they kidnapped the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the world, and he's not happy. Daiyu, however, is kind of shy and definitely not into the whole you party scene. But as his relationship with her becomes more intense, Jason has to make some hard choices about revealing the past and imperiling the future of their master plan.
I don't want to spoil anything else, but rest assured that it is fantastic. There are airped (think flying motorcycle) chases, hacking, killer plagues, and steamy romances. It is brilliant and everyone should be reading it. Cindy Pon has created a believable and yet frightening world--made all the more ominous because it could seriously happen in our lifetime. You can feel the oppressive weight of polluted air pressing down on you as you roam the streets of Taipei with Jason. And can we talk about that cover by Jason Chan? There is a gorgeous Taiwanese boy on the cover of a book set in Taipei! I've never seen anything like it--which is super-sad, because we need books like this. We need more books like this! *wink wink nudge nudge*
Lately, I haven't had a great track record with YA SFF. Want ended that dry spell. It inspired me and made me remember that all is not lost. Teens can save the world--we need to give them the chance to act. And hopefully not have a nuclear war before they get a chance to do that. BUT I DIGRESS. Go forth and pre-order! Ask your librarian to get this for the collection! Tell your friends! Do a happy dance because this book is amazing!
I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss.