If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Blog About It

Need by Carrie Jones

I need this book to go away

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.  And he’s trailing Zara.


You know how when you’re a kid and your mom tells you “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”  It doesn’t matter if the lady in front of you at the grocery store is picking her nose with reckless abandon.  It doesn’t matter if your disgusting brother thinks his gastrointestinal orchestra is highlarious.  Don’t. Say. A. Word.  It wouldn’t be nice.

So, being the eternal good girl, there’s little I can say about Need. In fact, I’m cringing at the very thought of reviewing it.  In truth, I actually had to force myself to finish reading it, which is an oddity for me (normally I tear through books, even mediocre ones, at a rapid pace and can throw one down in a matter of hours).  This was a struggle for me because I could never get fully invested in any of the characters or storylines.  The whole thing puzzles me because I’m sure a lot of people loved this book.  I read it because I’d seen some great buzz about it online.  But in the end I wasn’t a fan (and come on.  I like this).

It sounded so promising:

After the sudden death of her beloved stepfather, Zara moves from her home in Charleston to live with her grandmother in a small town in icy  Maine.  She’s drowning in grief, limping through her days and nervously listing phobias in her head to help overcome her feelings of sadness and fear.  Despite this, she begins high school, makes new friends— even finds a spark with a cute boy named Nick.

As she adjusts to her new life, she begins to see mysterious clues that show that all is not as it seems in this quiet, snowy town.  For starters, a man she believed to be stalking her back in Charleston lurks outside her home and school.  Worse, Grandma Betty often warns her to be home every night before dark, reminding her to lock every window and door and setting a strict rule that the doors should be opened for no one. Stranger still, Zara often finds Betty staring out the windows late at night, almost as if she’s expecting someone to emerge from the dark woods surrounding them.

Zara is pretty strong-willed and likable.  I loved that she’d mentally list phobias as a way of overcoming her own fears (in fact, Jones actually named each chapter after a different phobia. Loved that).  And Zara’s Grandma Betty is pretty much a tough-guy, know-it-all trapped in the body of a grams.   She’s fiercely protective, totally independent and can kick some serious bootay with her big ass truck and sailor’s mouth.  Sadly, that’s where my praise ends.

One of the problems with Need was that although I should have felt some sort of emotion for Zara—either for the loss of her stepdad, the drastic move away from home, or for the haze of depression she lived in—I didn’t.   I should have been intrigued by the fact that some creepy dude had followed her all the way to Maine.  And I should have wanted to know why the brand-new friends she made at school were protective of her virtually overnight.

Instead all I felt was…yawn.

Maybe it’s because the mysterious man who’s following Zara doesn’t do a whole lot.  He stands outside her window (creepy in real life?  Yes.  In the book? Notsomuch), he calls to her (“Zara.  Come to me Zara.”  And that’s pretty much it), and he leaves a trail of gold dust behind him.

Was I scared?  Only by how ridiculous it is that we’re expected to find that ominous.  I mean, what’s next?  A book about leprechauns and their big scary rainbows? And when Zara finds big paw prints in the snow near her house, I wanted to laugh instead of wondering what strange, otherworldly creature could be lurking out there ( I’ll give you a hint.   Think hairy and largely overdone in YA books today).

Did I just nod off?  Sorry.

In her defense, Jones made a worthy attempt to combine popular paranormal ideas without including angels and vampires (and for that I thank her).  I just had a hard time getting behind it because even when a story takes place under completely unrealistic circumstances, I want to believe it as I’m reading it.  I want to be drawn in.  I want to feel the emotions of the protagonist and walk each step with him or her, feeling almost as if I’m living it too.  But I just couldn’t do that because the guy following Zara is a freaking pixie.  While this may not be the first book with this premise, I found it so hard to get into.

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe pixies just aren’t my thing.

Do we strike a chord of fear in you?

Okay, okay.  Obviously these are not the kind of pixies Jones is referring to.  She gives a bit of back story and likens them to that rarely mentioned novelty, the vampire, but I just couldn’t buy into it.

And the chemistry between Nick and Zara wasn’t there for me.  The author gives them several encounters, she talks about how cute Nick is, she lets you know how much Zara likes him—they even play some tonsil hockey—but it felt forced, as did much of the dialogue between Zara and her friends.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy moments of the book or that some of the characters weren’t likable, because they were.  But the only thing that was truly memorable to me was how ridiculous the premise was and how choppy the dialogue felt.  Other than that I loved it.

Ok, not really.  (Sorry mom).

Crush Intensity: 1/5 Save the pixies for Disneyland.