Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Published by Make Me a World on September 10, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 4.30 (as of 2019-09-23)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.
Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?
There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
After absolutely loving Freshwater, there wasn’t a question in my mind of whether or not I’d pick up Pet. I was actually lucky enough to grab a copy off Netgalley! Pet tells the story of a black trans girl named Jam, who lives in a utopian society where all “monsters” have been vanquished. The problem is, an otherworldly creature crawls out of a painting created by Jam’s mother and insists that there is a monster, and that it has come to hunt it.
But unpleasant things must be done for unpleasant purposes out of unpleasant necessity.
I found that I loved a lot about the characters in this novel. As far as I remember, none of the characters were white. Jam herself is trans, which was just a fact of life and not the source of any kind of conflict, and is also implied to have selective mutism. She speaks sign language with most of the people around her, who have learned it so that she can communicate more comfortably. Jam’s best friend Redemption also has parents who are in a polyamorous relationship, which I was thrilled to see!
I found the message of the story to be quite important: that monsters are often hiding in plain sight, and that we must be willing to look for them. The problem with this utopian society was that in believing all of the monsters were gone, they no longer kept their eyes open and were blind to the reality in front of them. While it’s scary to realize that we’re not as safe as we think, it’s important to look out for red flags and to protect everyone around us. I thought this was really well-done and hope that this story can reach children and young adults — and even adults — who need to hear this message.
One of my only complaints was that I struggled to pick apart most of Redemption’s family. They all sort of blurred together for me, save for his uncle Hibiscus and brother Moss. I think this is less that they don’t have distinct personalities and more that not enough time is spent with them for those personalities to feel fully developed. It didn’t cause much trouble for me, but did occasionally get a bit confusing.
The truth does not change whether it is seen or unseen, it whispered in her mind. A thing which is happening happens whether you look at it or not. And yes, maybe it is easier not to look. Maybe it is easier to say because you do not see it, it is not happening. Maybe you can pull the stone out of the pool and put the moon back together.
Overall, this was definitely a solid read and I’m glad that Emezi is able to spread such an important message.