want & ruse – cindy pon | duology review

Want by Cindy Pon


Series: Want #1
Published June 13th 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance, LGBT
Representation: Taiwanese, Filipino, part-Indian. bi SC, lesbian SC

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

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 city’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 Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?


☽☾☽☾☽

Cindy Pon got me intrigued from the beginning. I’m kept entertained throughout the book. Her writing has me visualizing this alternate Taiwan that’s filled with flying vehicles and uber-expensive high-tech suits for the rich while the poor are inundated by pollution. This group of friends is trying to bring down a huge corporation that might be purposefully aggravating the pollution issue.

Jason and his friends are playing a dangerous game but their motives are good. Bringing down Jin corporation isn’t going to be easy so their plan to infiltrate as one of the yous (have) needs to be intricate and foolproof. The dystopia setting was frightening. The pollution has gotten so severe that the citizens of Taiwan are suffering from poverty and starvation.

One thing I noticed was how often the characters spoke in Mandarin Chinese than English. The representation is amazing as well. Jason, Lingyi, and Iris are Taiwanese while Victor is Filipino and Arun is part Indian. Each of them has their unique personality and job role in the mission. Even though Taiwan’s shrouded in pollution and virus, Cindy Pon managed to perfectly describe the vibrant and bustling city of Taipei.

Books aren’t afraid to show you the truth.

With his sense of justice, Jason can’t stand the mistreatment of the meis (have nots). Not only did he show compassion multiple times, but he’s also incredibly loyal and fiercely protective of his friends. His friendships with the rest were sweet and touching. The romance between Jason and Daiyu was slow-burning because of who Daiyu is.

A highly advanced tech conglomerate hiding a nefarious goal. A crew of people trying to discover the truth and rectify the horrifying world they are living in. The world in Want seemed like a possible future where it is overrun by pollution and disease. Since I read Want during the initial COVID-19 period, it’s a little scary because it reflected reality vividly. Want also highlights the dangers of technology and not knowing what companies behind these techs are doing with our personal data.

With this ending, I don’t know what’s installed for the crew. I know Ruse will focus on Lingyi’s perspective. I never knew I would like a cyberpunk sci-fi novel but this is a first.

☽☾☽☾☽

The review of RUSE below contains spoiler for book one!! Make sure you’re read Want before venturing further.

☽☾☽☾☽

Ruse by Cindy Pon


Series: Want #2
Published March 12th 2019 by Simon Pulse
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance, LGBT
Representation: Taiwanese, Filipino, part-Indian. bi SC, lesbian SC

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Jason Zhou, his friends, and Daiyu are still recovering from the aftermath of bombing Jin Corp headquarters. But Jin, the ruthless billionaire and Daiyu’s father, is out for blood. When Lingyi goes to Shanghai to help Jany Tsai, a childhood acquaintance in trouble, she doesn’t expect Jin to be involved. And when Jin has Jany murdered and steals the tech she had refused to sell him, Lingyi is the only one who has access to the encrypted info, putting her own life in jeopardy.

Zhou doesn’t hesitate to fly to China to help Iris find Lingyi, even though he’s been estranged from his friends for months. But when Iris tells him he can’t tell Daiyu or trust her, he balks. The reunited group play a treacherous cat and mouse game in the labyrinthine streets of Shanghai, determined on taking back what Jin had stolen.

When Daiyu appears in Shanghai, Zhou is uncertain if it’s to confront him or in support of her father. Jin has proudly announced Daiyu will be by his side for the opening ceremony of Jin Tower, his first “vertical city.” And as hard as Zhou and his friends fight, Jin always gains the upper hand. Is this a game they can survive, much less win?

☽☾☽☾☽

Arriving in Shanghai, Lingyi met up with her childhood friend, Jany, who called her for help. Realizing that her tech is in danger of being stolen by Jin, Jany requested Lingyi to encrypt the important data somewhere safe. When Jany ended up dead, Lingyi’s the only one who has the key to everything. Embroiled into Jin’s world once again, the group of friends decided the best way to settle some scores and to bring Jin down once and for all.

Ruse mainly focused on Lingyi and Jason’s point-of-view. While they’re dealing with different issues, the guilt and grief that came with the death of Victor is deeply embedded within both of them. Lingyi was the one who saw Victor before the bomb went off and Zhou was the one they were going to save. Moreover, these feelings got more complicated for Lingyi. As she’s the leader of the group, she was the one who ordered them to continue with the plan despite the high risk. Victor’s death temporarily separated them.

With their relationship built upon lies, Zhou’s determined to not further jeopardize his and Daiyu’s romance. However, when he got the news of Jin trying to steal the revolutionary tech, he started to doubt everything. Finding out that Daiyu had been in contact with her father all along heightened his worries. Daiyu’s actions didn’t make the nagging feeling go away.

For the friends, they are all working towards the same goal. Arun’s using his knowledge and skills for the betterment of society. I wanted more of his perspective but he’s pretty clear and open about his own feelings about the situation and about Victor’s death than any of the friends. Iris is always there to support Lingyi whenever she needed it even when she doesn’t approve of their subsequent steps due to the dangers they will be in.

The ending was satisfying; I liked how the group solved the Jin problem. There wasn’t much world-building but since I had a comprehensive understanding of the settings, it’s not something that I’m going to complain about.

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