Review: Want by Cindy Pon

There is no greater feeling than to read a book at exactly the right time you needed it, and encountering Want in this season of raging protests against greedy corporations makes it much more relevant than ever.

Publication Information

  • Date of Publication: 13 June 2017
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse || Simon & Schuster
  • Series: Want #1
  • Age Category: Young Adult
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
  • Cover Art: Jason Chan
  • Cover Design: Karina Granda

Goodreads || StoryGraph || Readerly || Amazon

About the book

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 cityโ€™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 Corpโ€™s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

On-page representation: Author of color (Taiwanese), Taiwanese representation (protagonists, setting, language, and culture), Filipino side character, Indian side characters, LGBTQ+ representation (F/F side pairing)

Trigger and content warnings: abduction, animal experimentation, classism, elitism, physical violence, poverty, death of a loved one (off-page, recounted), death from lack of medical care (major theme), themes and objects that may be trigger pandemic-related anxiety (masks, quarantine, illness, poor government response, suspicious news headlines)


Review

This is the last book I read in my Asian Readathon TBR, and I am so happy that I saved one of the best for last. Read my wrap-up here!

Want follows a ragtag group of teenagers as they plan and execute a high-stakes heist mission to take down Jin Corp: the face of capitalism and the central rot in this dystopian version of Taiwan.

Right from the very first page, Pon reminds the reader that they are no longer in the US or UK, and I love how unapologetically Asian this book is. The opening scene reminds me of the kind of street market one can only find in Asia, and I am so psyched to see a setting like that updated with futuristic tech. Throughout the book, Asian-ness is not an aesthetic limited to food and random, recognizable cultural icons. Instead, everything in it–the descriptions, relationship dynamics, themes, priorities, societal structure–hits so close to home. Want is a love letter to Taipei, and every time someone in the book says they do what they do because they love the city, I truly believe them.

Within this reimagined Taipei is an in-your-face discussion of inequality and privilege. The rich or the yous (literally “haves”) are literally shielded from polluted air through their custom suits and helmets. The meis or poor people are left to fend for themselves on the street and cut off from badly needed public services. Each scene, each conversation delivers a stark contrast between the yous’ lavish parties and the meis’ desperate attempts to survive. This disparity further fuels Zhou’s anger to pull off the mission, and it forces readers to come into terms with their own privilege.

Pon’s commentary is made even more relevant considering what we are currently living through here in the Philippines. Reading Want during a pandemic lockdown in an extremely polluted and corrupt country is truly an experience. Many of the scenes there come alive because I know what it feels like to be in the same scenario. I know people who have actually lived through this horrendous state of health care that only prioritizes the rich and powerful. While I am rendered helpless by many systems in place, I cheer for Zhou and the crew as they take on what is impossible in my reality.

This book also has one of the best ensemble casts in recent years. I love how everyone in the group knows their role and have the trust to pull off all their operations. They deeply care for one another, and despite how broken and bitter they may be, they urge each other to be the best versions of themselves. Their group meetings aren’t limited to quick banter; they talk about the issues that plague their society and work through each member’s personal pain and attachment. This is the kind of friendship I would die for, and every time they eat together or cook food, I just want to hug them all and take care of them.

This found family is also a diverse cast whic truly reflects Taiwan’s multicultural aspect. I especially love that one of my favorites is Filipino! I am always hungry for any kind of Filipino representation that goes beyond the usual maid or very loud tita stereotypes. I did not expect to be blown away by Victor, a suave mainstay in the dark underbelly of Taipei. He needs to be known and appreciated by more readers. I love him, and I want nothing but his happiness. That’s all I can say right now before I burst into a stream of emotions.

I am really rooting for the romantic relationships in this book! I haven’t liked a YA ship in a very long time until Zhou and Daiyu. Their chemistry, their banter, and their willingness to make each other better at changing the world is so fascinating to read, and I love their steady progression throughout the book. Lingyi and Iris are much more private, but their softness and confidence in each other just gets me, you know. I love all of them. I want them all to be happy despite the ugly world they (we) all live in.

Everything in this book makes me want a movie adaptation! Wouldn’t it be badass to have a group of Asian teens who are ready to take down a megacorporation that feeds on poverty and exclusivity? The super sleek tech, high stakes heists, and well-written romance would translate very well from book to screen. I hope that production companies are fighting over the rights of this series because it deserves the same hype–or even more!–given to the Ready Player One movie adaptation.

Overall, this is one of the best YA books I have read this year. Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, I really recommend that you read this to cheer on Zhou and his crew as they take down the face of capitalism from within.


Let’s chat:

  • Have you read this book yet? I would love to hear your thoughts!
  • Do you have BIPOC sci-fi recs that I might enjoy after reading Want? Please share them in the comments!
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8 thoughts on “Review: Want by Cindy Pon”

  1. oohh i absolutely adore sci-fi books and i love seeing asian representation in books, so i will 100% be checking this out!! also isn’t the cover just gorgeous?? lovely review~~

    Liked by 1 person

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