Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
NEED Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Fresh cyberthriller explores dark side of social media.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

NEED raises interesting questions about the dangers and benefits of social media and explores the difference between what teens want and what they actually need.

Positive Messages

It's important to know the difference between what one wants and what one actually needs. Not everyone is brave enough to sacrifice her own safety for someone else, but some empathetic individuals are willing to make a full commitment to someone else.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sixteen-year-old Kaylee, the main character of NEED, is impulsive and prone to exaggeration, especially when it comes to the welfare of her younger, desperately ill brother, DJ. Nevertheless, she's brave and resourceful and among the first to take action when it becomes clear to her how dangerous the NEED site is.


The violence in NEED starts slowly but builds as the story barrels to its climax. A teen dies from eating a cookie with peanuts in it. Another teen is drugged and kidnapped. Someone's trapped in a building set on fire. In one scene, characters are wounded and fatally shot.


Kaylee and Nate are attracted to each other, but neither knows how to change their "just friends" status. They flirt and share a quick embrace.


"Damn" and "hell," perhaps a dozen times each. "Ass" and "balls" used once or twice.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that NEED is a contemporary thriller by Joelle Charbonneau, author of the Testing series. It features a dangerous form of social media that pits high school students against one another. The level of violence is fairly mild at first but ratchets up toward the end of story. A teen dies from eating peanuts, another is drugged and kidnapped, and a girl is trapped in a building about to be set on fire. A scene features gunplay that results in fatal wounds. The main characters, Kaylee and Nate, are attracted to each other but don't know how to express their feelings beyond some mild flirting and an embrace. Strong language is limited to a dozen or so uses of "damn" and "hell," with one or two of "ass" and "balls."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMoth June 19, 2018

Intense and violent

I was surprised to read the description here describing the violence in this book as including "gun play that resultedrin fatal wounds". This is a eup... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 29, 2016

I had trouble putting it down!

This book is so gripping, it has you on the edge of your seat the whole time. There were multiple times when I was reading and started to yell at the characters... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byE_Tanith07 April 20, 2021

Good book, wait till teen years

Super good book. Had me spooked first time though. I couldn't read it at night. It makes HP look like a bunch of cute little kittens. It is super well wri... Continue reading

What's the story?

When Kaylee Dunham's best friend, Nate, receives an invitation to join a new, secret social media network, neither is prepared for the havoc the site will cause their high school classmates. In exchange for having one of their selected "needs" fulfilled, which might range from a new gaming system to a new kidney for a sick relative, participants agree to perform a clandestine task. At first, these tasks seem harmless, but before long, people are getting hurt -- and even killed. Kaylee and Nate work to uncover the secrets of the NEED network, but they soon realize that they're up against a ruthless opponent with vast capabilities.

Is it any good?

Finding a new twist on the cyberthriller takes some hard work and imagination, but this tale of social media run amok has some nifty surprises. Author Joelle Charbonneau devises a sure-fire concept for NEED, pitting impulsive Wisconsin teens against one another as they perform various tasks in expectation of getting their wishes granted. The stakes grow high, the suspense mounts, and characters reveal unforeseen aspects of their personalities. The final confrontation between Kaylee and the villain is a bit too talky, but Charbonneau crafts a solid thriller plot, one with a neat kick at the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between wanting something and needing it. How do you define each action?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of being connected nearly constantly through social media? Does social media ever encourage antisocial behavior?

  • Have governments ever conducted secret experiments on their subjects? What are the dangers of such experiments?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers

Themes & Topics

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