Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Pet [review]

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.

Spoiler-free Review

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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.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Freshwater [review]

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Published by Grove Press on February 13, 2018
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2019-05-09)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.


I finished this after the Women’s Prize shortlist is released and all I can say is: it’s a damn travesty that this book didn’t make the cut. It was initially interesting to see that it was longlisted — Akwaeke Emezi is nonbinary, which the judges were not aware of until after they had decided upon the list. Emezi gave their okay for the book’s inclusion regardless and fans were glad to see it gain further recognition. But for the judges to leave off this masterpiece in favor of the combination they did… I won’t get into it, but it sure doesn’t make any sense.

The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.

I actually received a Netgalley ARC of this in January 2018, which I far too quickly DNFed in a “I’m not sure I Get this, maybe later” scenario. Maybe for the best, since I don’t know that I would have fully appreciated this novel without the growth my literary tastes have experienced over the last year. While I’m still not sure I was able to fully appreciate it — there were doubtless many things I missed — this is one of the most impactful books I have ever read and I’m sure I’ll never forget it.

The boy made Ada a gibbering thing in a corner — this is the truth, but he would never get her again. I had arrived, flesh from flesh, true blood from true blood. I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh. I was here. No one would ever touch her again.

Freshwater is an exploration of many things, but at the forefront lie trauma, gender identity, and spirituality. It’s hard to explore the plot too deeply without spoilers, but I’ll say that this is one of the best portrayals of trauma that I’ve ever read. The entire book requires endless trigger warnings and it’s quite an intense experience, but I found it so rewarding. If you’re in the space where you can pick this up, I cannot recommend it enough.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater
The Silence of the Girls

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