Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I actually pre-ordered this book intending to read it right when it came out, but…best intentions. In any case, it’s not quite as sci-fi as I thought it would be, so I guess I’m not totally regretting my life decisions? (This was more of a dystopian situation, and I’ve had quite a few more of those.)
In any case, let’s talk about it, shall we?
Want by Cindy Pon
This cover art is pretty sweet, and the author remarks inside on how glad she was that her Taiwanese main character could so prominently be on the cover of it. It is nice to see some different representation on book covers, for sure!
Anyway: the book. Want is about a dystopian Taiwan in which the air is barely breathable, and the population is split into mei and you people: the have-nots and the haves. The have-nots have brief lifespans, eating tainted food and breathing polluted air; the haves wear expensive suits to filter their air and regulate their temperatures.
Zhou is a have-not who decides to change the status quo: he wants to show the yous how important it is to help to mend the polluted world. But before he can do that, he needs to become one of them. It’s a pretty classic fish-out-of-water, infiltrate the system to get revenge but also care too much for someone there kind of scenario that you may remember from such recent books as Red Rising, and you might recognize the disgust Zhou has for the excess of the you lifestyle from such books as The Hunger Games.
In other words, the plot here is really nothing new. Which is fine, most plots aren’t, but it didn’t give me anything to be excited about, so I had to look elsewhere.
Otherwise, a lot of this book is Zhou falling for his love interest, which was kind of boring since he does a bunch of it from afar without interacting with her? We don’t get loads of character development for her other than near the end, so it’s kind of not the most awesome romance to read about.
So what else is going on in this book to hang on to? The worldbuilding in this book is interesting, but not enough of the substance of the book, I felt. There are a lot of character moments where people are fighting for the Taiwan they care about, but I wanted to know and understand that Taiwan in general and through their perspectives a lot more.
Speaking of those perspectives: the other characters, Zhou’s friends, are a pretty interesting group, but we don’t get a lot of time to get to know each of them individually. It is, after all (I know, you’re going to murder me)…a short book. And because it’s a short book where we don’t get a lot of moments for these characters to show us who they are rather than having Zhou tell us, I find that, wait for it…a lot of the emotional beats don’t land as I’d like them to.
I am a broken record, 2017. In 2018, I am resolving to read far fewer short books, I promise.
(…but seriously, I was kind of hoping for Zhou’s team to be a little bit Six of Crows-esque, in terms of having some time to get to know each of them and their stories, but we really just don’t.)
In any case: I wanted to like this book, but it didn’t really happen for me? It was a quick enough read, and I was interested in the world it presented (brown skies, polluted air, sky motorcycles and all), but I didn’t have enough to dig into in that worldbuilding, and the plot ended up following somewhat repetitive patterns, and the characters weren’t really enough to latch on to.
I want to get behind Cindy Pon (she’s an amazing advocate for diverse books and I totally respect that), but this isn’t the book that can get me there. Maybe the next one?
Do you find you’re missing something from the short books you read? Or are you more into them because of how quickly they go by? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!