Author: Carrie Jones
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA / Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publishing date: December 2008 / February 2010
Paperback: 320 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of ongoing series
Why did we read the book: We have had our eyes on this book for a while now…
How did we get the book: Review Copies from the respective US & UK publishers
Summary: (from amazon.com)
Zara collects phobias the way other high school girls collect lipsticks. Little wonder, since life’s been pretty rough so far. Her father left, her stepfather just died, and her mother’s pretty much checked out. Now Zara’s living with her grandmother in sleepy, cold Maine so that she stays ‘safe.’ Zara doesn’t think she’s in danger; she thinks her mother can’t deal.
Wrong. Turns out that guy she sees everywhere, the one leaving trails of gold glitter, isn’t a figment of her imagination. He’s a pixie – and not the cute, lovable kind with wings. He’s the kind who has dreadful, uncontrollable needs. And he’s trailing Zara.
Ana: I will be completely honest and say that I approached Need with caution since “official” reviews (like Publishers Weekly’s) and the promotional material we received from the publisher clearly pointed it to being similar to Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I was a bit concerned that I was embarking on another journey to a paranormal world with a bland heroine, a strong and brooding hero, a love triangle and a not so interesting plotline. I was proved wrong. In fact, I think the comparisons to Twilight, do this novel a disservice as nearly nothing in Need can be compared to Twilight (except if being in the same genre counts). From the very beginning I fell in love with the heroine and her narrative voice. I did have a few mishaps throughout (which Thea and I will refer to later) but despite those, I ended up firmly on the “I love it” team. Firmly. You hear me, Thea?
Thea: I had my eye on Need for a very long time – I think since back last year, when I saw Angie of Angieville’s review of the book. The cover is very pretty, and I like the idea of killer pixies. Yeah, they glitter just like vampires of today, but it’s pixies. That’s pretty interesting stuff. And, for the most part, I found Need to be a solidly enjoyable novel. I actually disagree with Ana – I do think there are a lot of similarities between Need and Twilight, at least in terms of writing style. I actually liked the Twilight books (until Breaking Dawn ruined everything), in a guilty pleasure, I know this isn’t good for me but it’s so damn readable way. Both Stephenie Meyer and Carrie Jones have an ability to keep a reader glued to a book by some strange word-welding/storytelling voodoo. I call it voodoo because despite the fact that Zara commits myriad Too-Stupid-To-Live (“TSTL”) offenses, despite the mediocre writing, despite the ‘don’t-scrutinize-too-hard-or-the-story-falls-apart’ plot holes…I somehow, inexplicably found myself truly enjoying this book. I cannot explain it. It simply is.
On the plot:
Ana: Since the death of her beloved step-father, Zara has been depressed and not feeling like herself. In an attempt to get her out of her shell, her mother sends her to live with her step-grandmother in Maine. She starts school straight away and almost immediately strikes a friendship with quirky-girl Issy and finds a love interest in resident bad boy (although, not really), Nick. If being grief-stricken around the town her father grew up was not enough, a strange man keeps falling her around (and apparently all the way from Charleston) trying to lure her into the woods; and then kids start to disappear. It is clear that there is an element of paranormal happening but just exactly what is not disclosed to Zara or the reader till later on.
First things first: I quite liked the way the story evolved and the mood the author set from the opening lines. The prose was absolutely effective in conveying the grief and the cold that Zara was feeling. Then little by little, Zara starts to realise that not only the town she inhabits is different, the world she lives in is not what she thought it was. I felt the suspense of the story and even though I could certainly guess quite a few things (just what Nick was for example with all the growling and the “alpha” behaviour) but others, I was pleasantly surprised with. The beginning and the ending were fabulous in my opinion. So fabulous, I closed the book and I thought: how awesome.
Then, I started to think about the details. And this is when things went a little bit awry, because there are is a certain amount of details that do not add up (in order to not spoil important plot points, I will go back to this point later on). However, it says a lot that overall, despite any misgivings, I actually think the book is damn good and well worth a read and that is because of not only the atmospheric writing, the unpretentious romance, the presence of Killer Pixies but mostly, because of how cool and awesome, the main protagonist Zara, was.
Thea: I thoroughly enjoyed Need. I found the novelty of killer pixies to be ingenious. I too loved the snowy, otherworldly atmosphere that Ms. Jones gives to her small Maine town (and I also loved the heavy Stephen King name drops throughout). I enjoyed the central conflict to the story (a Pixie King is stalking Zara, young males are disappearing from the town, and Zara and her friends are dedicated to stopping the threat). I thought the use of phobias to introduce chapters was an ingenious touch too, adding to the magic of the book. And yet…how can I properly convey my experience with this book in a spoiler-free way. Hmm. The best comparison I can think of is:
Need is a lot like 28 Days Later.
Not because Need is overrun with humans infected with some deadly, instantly transmuted virus or anything like that (although, wait a second, Pixie-ism is pretty easily transmuted and quickly infectious…). Rather, both have a similarity in manner of plot. It’s easy to get caught up in both of these stories and rush through them, enjoying yourself the whole while. But there’s always that niggling knowledge during and after – the intellectual knowledge that the story just doesn’t add up. Such is Need.
I found myself noticing these holes while I was reading, but in spite of my disbelief, I was still able to finish the book and enjoy it. And that’s sayin’ something. (Although the more I scrutinize the plot, the most unstable the whole thing seems – but that’s fodder for later in the spoiler version of the post)
On the characters:
Ana: Despite committing at least two counts of serious Too Stupid To Live moments and having one or two moments that caused me perhaps want to strangle her, I really did like Zara as a protagonist and a narrator and the reason behind is that Carrie Jones infused her with a thing called A PERSONALITY. She is very keen on helping others (she even opens a chapter of Amnesty International), something she learnt from her step-father and which does not come without a struggle. At one point, she is asked what would she do if someone attacked her friends, she says she thinks she would not react violently but this is something that might change – because nothing is set in stone. I like that she stands up for herself, she fights for what she believes in. And she has this one quirky trait that I loved: she likes to learn about phobias and recites them to herself in times of stress.
Fear of phobias
Everybody has fears, right?
I’m into that.
I collect fears like other people collect stamps, which makes me sound like more of a freak than I actually am. But I’m into it. The fears thing. Phobias.
There are all the typical, common phobias. Lots of people are afraid of heights and elevators and spiders. Those are boring. I’m a fan of good phobias. Stuff like nelophobia, the fear of glass. Or arachibutyrophobia, the fear that you will have peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
I do not have the fear of peanut butter, of course, but how cool is it that it’s named?
This means that Zara exists outside the sphere of her family, her friends and her love interest.
But going back to the TSTL moments. Yes, she did have quite a few. But you will notice I am not moved to mock or hold it against her. Because I understood the motivations and the reasoning behind them and above all I liked the way she reacted to the eventual repercussions (“OMG I am such an idiot”) .
As for the other characters: there are a mixture of stereotypes (the annoying bad girl at school for example) or the cool grandmother. I quite liked Nick, the love interest. But even though Zara insisted in thinking of him as bad boy I saw zero evidence (in fact all the grandmothers in town TOLD her how much of a good boy he was) of that. As a were, his job was to protect and that came naturally to him and not without some vulnerability as well – he is gruff and big and he never kissed anyone before Zara, endearing him to me almost instantly.
And then there is the Pixie King and the Need. But saying more is to seriously spoil the plot.
Thea: I have a thing against TSTL heroines. By definition, they are stupid, and incredibly annoying. However, in spite of Zara’s MANY (I counted at least 4 TSTL grievances) moments of incredible stupidity, I still, inexplicably, liked her as a character. I think this is because of the reasons Ana lists – because Zara has a personality, she knows that she’s making really bonehead decisions, and she chides herself for them. She doesn’t learn from them, which is incredibly irritating but believable (hey, that’s human nature!). I loved her quirk of reciting phobias; I loved her dedication to Amnesty International; I loved her pacifistic take on life and how naive and believably teenager-ish she is.
What irritated me more than anything with regard to Zara’s character, however, was how sloooooooow she was to put two and two together when all the evidence is clearly in front of her. To be fair, this is a plot device that many authors use (Richelle Mead most notably does this in her Vampire Academy and Georgina books – and I usually let it slide) – the “everyone knows what’s going on except the heroine and this will be protracted as long as humanly possible” technique. Zara is supposed to be an intelligent young woman, and yet she cannot piece together two very elementary clues to solve a puzzle? Come on. It’s belittling to the character, and even worse, it’s annoying to the reader. (Sorry for the mini-rant, it’s just a huge pet peeve of mine)
As for the other characters, there are some stereotypical appearances as Ana has mentioned (hip grannie, hot bitchy blonde popular girl), but I think the secondary cast works to Need‘s favor. I loved Zara’s friends, especially Isi and Devyn. Even more importantly, they exist beyond the realm of “being Zara’s friends,” (a common pitfall in the YA genre that Ms. Jones nicely avoids). Nick is a little predictable, but sweet too, and the romance between him and Zara is undeniably fun.
The only deficiency in characters (besides Zara’s TSTL moments) lay in some character motivations, and a lack of explanation especially where Pixies are concerned. But, those are spoilery, and for later.
Final Thoughts, Observations and Ratings:
Ana: You will probably have noticed by now that Need is a novel I enjoyed immensely but it was “in spite of” and not “because of”. I do think this series has a lot of potential (plot-wise and character-wise) and I plan on reading Captivate as soon as possible.
Thea: What Ana said. I really enjoyed Need and eagerly dove into Captivate after finishing the first book. But I can recognize that the book has it’s fair share of issues. I’m willing to overlook them and encourage all readers to do the same (because it is such a fun book to read), but know that they are there…
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the official excerpt:
“So . . . ,” I say. “You guys were going to tell me about the man outside the cafeteria. Have you ever seen him before?”
Devyn swallows. “I’m not sure. He creeped me out, which is not manly, I know.”
“You are totally manly,” Is announces in a way that makes both Devyn and me blush. She stops twitching. “Devyn looked up some stuff. You are probably going to have a hard time believing this.”
I wait. “Uh-huh . . .”
“You want to tell her?” Issie asks.
Devyn sticks the spoon in the ice cream carton. It stands up straight. He toughs out the words, “We think he’s a pixie.”
You can read the full excerpt online, HERE.
Also, you can check out the (disney-abc-family-esque) book trailer out below:
Ana: 6 – Good ( I wavered between a 6 and 7 until the last minute)
Thea: 6 – Good. (It would have been a 7 based on pleasure alone, but I cannot justify that rating, given how many problems there were with the story)
What you saw above is a clean version of our opinions about Need after we settled down and thought about and discussed the book like two adults. But we decided, for the first time ever, to disclose what really goes on behind the curtains when we read a book. For an unabridged version of our conversation by emails, complete with spoilers, silly smilies, swearing words and a glimpse of the true nature of the smugglers’ dynamics, all you have to do is carry on.
For those who haven’t read the novel this is what basically what Need is about and what eventually we and Zara come to learn: the man following her is the Pixie King and her biological father. Every twenty years or so the Pixie King has a “Need” for a Queen (which he gets by kissing a human, although a Pixie Kiss will probably kill most humans). If he can’t find a Queen, the Need can be settled by drinking the blood of 20 boys instead. Everybody thinks he is after Zara because he wants her a as Queen but he actually wants her mother who is the de facto Queen. But here is the Twist! She was never Pixie Kissed. She had sex with the King, birthed Zara, but he never Kissed her. Why? We don’t know! To be continued….
Back to the task at hand. It begins with an Email from Ana to Thea:
Ana: Dude. Need is AWESOME. Have you read it yet? *ninja* I am interested to see what you think. I think your opinion can go either way. *ninja*.
Thea: Dude, I started it, ME LIKEY!!!
Ana: Don’t you like the whole Phobia thing????? *hyper* yes! yes!
Thea: Yes dude I did! I finished it last night! Other than Zara being a complete idiot at times, I really enjoyed it hahahahahahahahaha.
But good god, woman. She made at least 4 TSTL offenses *headdesk* but still, overall quite enjoyed it. Enough other awesome stuff (phobias, secondary characters, Stephen King name drops EVERYWHERE, plus just a pretty damn good idea for a book) to make it worthwhile 🙂
Ana: You know, I actually didn’t have a problem with her TSTL moments. I KNOW they are TSTL, but I understood her motivations (stupid as they were) and I liked her reactions (OMG I am such a moron) (OMG I am such a ninny) etc.
but I really liked the ending, the story, the fact that the king was after the mother, not after her and I luuurves Nick (duh).
The ONE thing that really bothered me: how come no one saw that Ian and the other girl were Pixies????????? come on. Plothole!
Thea: EXACTLY! Ok here were my problems with Zara (even though I still like her):
1. How can you NOT tell that Ian and Megan are pixies? HMM? They are cold, coldly beautiful, and Megan has hated her from first sight.
2. How can you not put two and two together and realize that Nick is a werewolf?!!?! You know, when you had a huge dog in your living room and then a few seconds later its transmogrified into a naked dude? HMMM??
3. Why the frak do you try to open a door when you know it is IMPOSSIBLE that the voice outside is your father considering he’s been dead for months now, AND you know that there’s a pixie in the house eager to find you and take you away forever?? HMMMMMMMMM?????
4. Why the hell would you go running outside – sending text messages to friends as a passive way to get them to stop you from being a stupid freaking moron *screwy* – alone. At night. In the woods. Where people are being kidnapped by pixies. THAT YOU KNOW WANT YOU???? HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM???????
5. Why would everyone – especially Betty – be so gorram slow to realize that OMG the Pixie King is Zara’s father and he’s actually after her mother?? HMMMMMM???? WHY would she be sent to Maine at all!?!?!?! I know the explanation in the book (‘oh, but we thought it wasn’t a problem, we haven’t heard anything for 10 years – except for the kidnapping last week!’), but it’s a stupid explanation. It just does. not. compute.
6. And another thing – why would the Pixie King make such a stupid deal with Zara’s mom in the first place? It’s not like she had ANY sort of bargaining power over him (so far as I can tell from the book)???? All he had to do is kiss her, as opposed to putting his magic pixiewand in her, which seems like a lot less trouble at the end of the day.
All that said, I STILL enjoyed the book. But man, that stuff was annoying.
Ana: HAHAHAHA OK, I DID A LOT OF THINKING AFTER reading the book because I liked the book so much so I tried to convince myself of a few things. so I created EXCUSES. Ahem. Ergo:
1) I actually thought Ian and Megan were weres at first from a different pack.
2) Because up to that point she was NOT really buying into the whole pixie-were thing. Which I actually LIKED, dude. That it took her a while to BUY into this stuff. Had it been easy, I would have been more annoyed. So, I actually preffered that she was looking for the dog than believing in werewolves.
3) Because she LOVED her father so much and for MONTHS she had been grief-striken dude. And then omg he was there! no?
4) Because she still did not believe in pixies at that point. She was still in denial at the whole paranormal shiz. Because she wanted to be active instead of passive and she thought Nick was in danger. And because she was downright suicidal.
5) She was sent to Maine because her mother thought the Pixie dude was going after her (the mother) in Charleston. She was sent to Maine because the grandmother is a tiger, therefore the most powerful person to protect her after her tiger father died. I saw ZERO problems there, to be honest.
6) I believe we have more things to discover about her mother and father? Please. There’s gotta be an explanation as to why her vagina is so precious. Perhaps in Captivate?
Thea: LOL I don’t know dude, sounds like a lot of streeeeetching to me! *grin* *devil* I’m not trying to change your mind, just airing out the laundry! 😈
(I will bring all this up in my review, btw. hahaha!) Just a few things though:
1. Ok, I’ll buy that at the beginning of the book. But not by the time we are 2/3 of the way through.
2. I liked that she took a while to believe everything, but COME ON! This was at least 1/2 through the book. I think more, actually. I felt like shaking her and saying, Zara honey, you’re really not helping anyone with your stupidity.
3. Yes, grief ok. But dude. For someone that’s supposed to be smart, whose read a ton of SK books and is familiar with how horror tropes work, this is just really, really dumb of Zara. She’s the kind of horror heroine that makes me want to scream at the tv and say, ‘you deserve to die! for all these stupid things you are doing!’ (you know, the ones that YOU write emails to me about, complaining after you’ve watched a horror movie that I’ve forced you to watch! HAHHAHAHA!)
And the thought process that gets her to realize that it isn’t her father out there (‘He knows there’s a wolf in here with me and he doesn’t break down the door EUREKA IT’S NOT MY DADDY!’)? It’s ridiculous! HELLO, pixie in the house!?!?!?! PIXIES OUTSIDE!??! HELLO McFLY! Anyone home?
4. She does this particular thing twice though! The first time is the one I have most issue with – when she knows something weird is going on, she knows that boys are being kidnapped by someone that wants her, and instead of listening to sanity, she goes outside for a run and then is surprised/scared when something happens to her.
I really did like that everyone KNEW they had hero-complexes… but that only makes the hero complex a *little* less annoying. 😛
Also, i don’t remember #5 as a motivation that they say in the book? But maybe i just missed it! Whoops. 😳 Still, the whole, I’m sending her to the lion’s den because it’s been safe for a while (besides the kidnapping the week prior) strikes me as incredibly silly.
BUT dude all that said, I *still* enjoyed the book and will start and probably finish captivate today :
Ana: La-la-la-la-la NOT Listening to your totally awesome and undeniably relevant points. I . Liked. The. Book. Do you think there are too many idiotic things to rate it a 7? But what about the good things?????
The writing? Zara is actually a strong character. She stands up for herself, she saves people, she comes up with the plan, she doesn’t need Nick to be rescuing her, I love her collection of Phobias, I love the secondary characters, the descriptions of Maine and the build up of tension.
But that just goes to show how far I am willing to go when I like a good story and a good protagonist.
Thea: Dude, I agree with you. Zara is a strong character with a personality and a life and I LOVED that about her. But this, coupled with a lot of questionable motivations and plot points (the whole mother storyline makes absolutely no sense to me – why would the pixie king not just kiss her? Why would she send her daughter back to Maine when that is his home? Why, if the point was to keep the mother away and safe, would she come TO Maine eventually, playing into the trap? Why wouldn’t the Grandmother tell Zara about her heritage or about the danger when she has SEEN the Pixie king outside the house, and on the way from the airport, and knows Zara is being stalked? WHY couldn’t the weres Nick and Devyn sniff out the pixies at school? Seriously. A lot of Whys.) detracted from the reading experience overall. I would have given it a 7, but because of all these flaws that I cannot ignore, it’s got to be a 6. A strong 6, but a 6 nonetheless.
Ana: FINE. You convinced me. A 6 it is. Party Pooper *shifty*
Thea: But there’s room for improvement! I have the highest hopes for Captivate….right dude? *hugs*