Sunday, September 22, 2019

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

"Who is even the target audience for this book?" I asked, while stirring my tea and clutching my pearls. No, but seriously, I'm not sure what age group this book is intended for. On the inside of the book, it says 12+ but I'm not 100% sure about that...

PET is the story of a young girl named Jam. She lives in this "utopian" society where people called "angels" have gotten rid of all the "monsters." From what I can tell, these angels and monsters are metaphorical, and monsters are abusers and criminals, and angels are those who either uphold the law or act as agents of justice. The only problem, this book warns, is that in a world without monsters, people forget what they look like...

Jam's mother, Bitter, is an artist. One day, she paints this especially creepy thing with corpse hands, fur, and feathers, with razor blades sticking out of its flesh. Jam trips and cuts herself on these blades, and when her blood mixes with the painting, the painting comes to life. A real life monster, only this monster claims its name is Pet and it's here to hunt the real monsters.

Most of the book is told in this overly precious narrative format that makes the book feel babyish. It kind of reminds me of Francesca Lia Block, if Francesca Lia Block were writing a Neil Gaiman-like middle grade novel. That should be really awesome, but this book wasn't because I felt like it talked down to its audience way too much and was a little too ridiculous, even for kids. (I mean, the heroine's name is Jam, her friend is Redemption, and their family members are named things like Hibiscus, Aloe, and Glass-- what.) Pet waltzes the line between scary and cute and for 90% of the book, wouldn't be out of place as an extra in Disney's Monsters Inc.--

--Until the climax, which is horrifying.

Seriously, beware, children. You're going to get scarred for life. What the actual fork did I read.

On the one hand, kudos to this book for making kids aware of abusers and the importance of shining the light on crimes that otherwise go unpunished. On the other hand, major down-vote for inconsistent tone and promoting however indirectly (violent) vigilante justice. I think there's a good message buried in this book but the story made it hard to find and I didn't really buy the world-building.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

2.5 out of 5 stars


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  2. I wasn't interested until I read that the climax is horrifying... Like a good horrifying? Or a bad horrifying?

    1. I'd say good horrifying! But it's much more violent than I expected to see in a Middle Grade book.


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