Book Review: The Need

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When Molly, home alone with her two young children, hears footsteps in the living room, she tries to convince herself it’s the sleep deprivation. She’s been hearing things these days. Startling at loud noises. Imagining the worst-case scenario. It’s what mothers do, she knows.

But then the footsteps come again, and she catches a glimpse of movement.

Suddenly Molly finds herself face-to-face with an intruder who knows far too much about her and her family. As she attempts to protect those she loves most, Molly must also acknowledge her own frailty.


What this book is NOT: Murder Mystery, Home Invasion Horror, Slow Build, 

What this book IS: Thrilling, Page Turning, Ambiguous Ending, Not What You Think.

This is my Spoiler Free Book Review for The Need by Helen Phillips

I intend to use the ***ASPECT method for my discussion and will not spoil the ending.

Why THIS Book?

Funny story. I was gushing about Followers by Megan Angelo (review here) to a friend a few weeks ago and she told me I should read a book with a not-too-different premise called Feed. But we were outside, at a pool, near other people, and I had water in my ears… so I thought she said “Need” and therefore when I was at a used bookstore not too long after and saw this book on the shelf, I grabbed it.

It is not Feed… (Which I now know is a book by MT Anderson that was made into a 10 episode British TV series a few years ago!). No. it is The Need…. And while I still have not read Feed, I did read the premise and watched the trailer and it is totally on my list… even if it is a totally different story.

Atmosphere (Tone)

It is a contemporary thriller. The tone, therefore, is fast-paced for the most part. It gets into your brain and wiggles around a bit as the story goes on…. The dichotomy between what we accept (know, trust, and recognize) and what we don’t when the book changes directions is interesting and makes for good reading.

Writing Style

Conversational, quick, detailed, and very descriptive. Philips spends ample time showing us the strains of early motherhood on her protagonist. Her prose is highly believable and honest and she shifts our focus and emotions seamlessly. We get breathless without running. The few cases of repetition were not badly written foibles, but intentionally there to draw our attention where she wanted it. For the most part, the story is tight and unsettling. 


I know I am biased because I am a mother who was a bit overwhelmed in the early days, but the characterization of Molly is wonderful. It is graphic and tragic and gross and authentic. Being a mom is hard. It is hard on your body, it is hard on your soul, it is hard on your brain. I loved those moments where I saw myself reflected in Molly…. Even if I would have made some very different choices. I really liked Molly. Up until the very end, more on that in a second.


I can’t talk too much about the plot because I don’t want to give anything away, so I will talk about the pacing.

The first section of the book has two timelines that meet up and then the sections after that veer pretty dramatically from that narrative device to just be straightforward narration. This is… fine. Honestly, the two timelines in part 1 weren’t necessary, because we had Exciting Scary Moment… and then the 8 hours leading up to that moment and the 3 hours after that moment that led us to Big Moment number 2. And both of those moments are super interesting (in fact, one could say they are the best two moments of the book… I might even say that, but YMWV). This is one of those times when a prologue of Exciting Scary Incident and then chapter one starts 8 hours earlier and the tension builds to get us to the Exciting Incident… that would have worked just fine. We could have spread the Big Moments out a bit… especially since the rest of the book is just basically resting to those two early moments heading into a climax that is more falling action than climax because the Big Moment already happened.


Yes. No matter what else I say here, yes. I decided to finish this book in one sitting and picked it over going for a walk… and I love my walks. It kept me turning pages greedily all the way to the end. And then, honestly, I had to reread the last few chapters because the ending was a send your brain for a loop sort of moment. I would say, avoid the temptation to barrel through to the end as much as you might itch to do so…. Philips has spent time laying in the groundwork for what is happening and we owe her our full attention all the way up to the very very (epilogue!) ending. 

Would I Recommend It?

Yes… BUT… manage your expectations. This is the second book in a row with an ambiguous ending. (Last week it was Klara and the Sun.) I think I know what happened and if I am correct it is a super chilling and /happy shiver. If, however, I am wrong but some internet theories are correct… umm.. well, eh. That’s not my personal cup of tea even if it is a bit more…. Hallmark. So if you hate ambiguous endings, you might want to rethink this… but if you are okay with that, then by all means. Again, it was a super fast read. Super fast and full of super short chapters. On a plane? Over your morning coffee on the porch? In the shade of an umbrella near the pool or the beach? Yes. But… I wouldn’t read this before bed because there is some definite mind bleepery at play and it might just wig you out a bit. Will Molly show up in my nightmares? I hope not… but I am sure that some of the themes and elements of this book will simmer just under the surface of my brain for months to come.

*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)

A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.

S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?

P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?

E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?

C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?

T This? Why did I read *This* book?

Thank you for your support!

Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments or send me an email.

Published by kayliametcalfe

Queer,loudmouth,skeptical-agnostic-pagan,book addict,coffee lover,wine drinker, SAHM,writer,editor,producer,podcaster. -She/her

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