NEED by Joelle Charbonneau

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NEEDNEED by Joelle Charbonneau
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, due out November 3, 2015.

In this creepy and atmospheric page-turner, a new social media craze is sweeping Nottawa High School – NEED. You just tell the site what you need – money, jewelry, sports equipment – and you’re given a task to perform to get it. At first the tasks are simple, but then they start to get strange – delivering cookies to a girl, taking a photo of your Dad’s medical insurance. And then people start dying.

Kaylee Dunham is a social pariah – her brother DJ needs a kidney transplant and she would do anything to find the right donor, but has alienated most of her classmates and many people in their small town in her efforts. She is wary of NEED, but feels it’s worth giving it a go, though when she sees what it’s doing to people she knows, she becomes deeply suspicious of the motives behind it.

The novel is cleverly and tightly plotted, though leaves credibility behind on more than a few occasions, and is told from multiple viewpoints, all in third person except Kaylee. This is a little confusing at first as few of the characters are distinct, but gradually a handful emerge to drive the story along. The examination of what a teen will do when anonymity removes all social shackles is a fascinating one (and has a whiff of the Stanford prison experiment), and Charbonneau (The Testing trilogy) has come up with a gripping way of marrying this with the intense relationship with social media that current teens have.

I really liked that Kaylee is a smart protagonist and does not do the all-too-often literary ignoring of blatant clues, but keeps pace with the reader. Her relationship with her mother and her brother is sharply drawn and her frequent self-examination rarely becomes tiring; though it does stall the action a little it does justify some of her actions.

This is a fun read that may leave teen readers asking themselves just what they would do to get what they want.

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Edelweiss for the digital review copy.

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