Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

NEED

NEED

Joelle Charbonneau
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015   ISBN: 978-0544416697

When Nate comes over to show Kaylee NEED, a new social media site he has found out about, she isn’t really that interested in it. Who has ever heard of a site that gives people their wishes, that gets them the things that they say they “need” The concept behind the site does not make sense. Who would bankroll something like this? Even though the whole thing sounds strange, when Nate invites Kaylee to join NEED she signs up, and when the site asks her what she needs she says “I need a kidney for my brother.”

Kaylee’s brother DJ has a disease that is slowly going to kill him if he doesn’t get a kidney transplant soon. When Kaylee and her parents found out that DJ’s disease had progressed, Kaylee set about trying to find a match for her brother, encouraging, and even pushing, the teachers and kids at her school to get tested to find out if any of them were a match for her brother. Very few did. What makes things worse is that Kaylee’s father left the family soon after they found out about DJ’s prognosis, and he refuses to get tested, which Kaylee finds incomprehensible. Kaylee does not really believe that NEED can give her what she wants, but she asks for it anyway. She is that desperate.

Other kids from Nate and Kaylee’s school join NEED and they invite their friends to join. They also share their wishes with whoever is behind NEED, asking for clothes, concert tickets, a longer winter break, electronics, and other things that they feel that they need.

Soon after the site goes live, the kids start to get messages from NEED telling them that, in order to get their wish, they have to do something in return. What they are asked to do seems innocuous. Someone fills in a fake order form at the bakery. Someone else delivers the order to a girl’s house. Every action is done in secret and anonymously. The people who do the tasks have to take a picture of what they have done and post it on the NEED website.

Then Amanda, one of the girls who is a member of NEED, dies when she eats a cookie that has peanuts in it. The cookies were delivered anonymously.

After Amanda dies, Kaylee starts to think that perhaps the people at NEED, for their own twisted reasons, are manipulating the kids at Nottowa High School. The demands that are being made of the teens are getting nastier and nastier. Three dogs are cut to pieces, two adults start fighting in church, and the atmosphere in Nottowa gets more and more fraught and tense. Kaylee decides to tell the police about NEED, and then things get a lot worse for her, and everyone else who is caught up in the web that NEED has created.

In this chilling, often deeply disturbing book, we see how secrets and greed can destroy a community, leading to a horrible, almost nightmarish situation. No one trusts anyone else, and behind it all is someone who is playing a terrible game that for some is deadly.

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