Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

“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.”

– Akwaeke Emezi, “Pet”

Review:

I loved this book! Oh my!

First off: Representation!
This book features an all black cast, and a transgender girl main character who was able to transition with little to no trauma or societal push-back. The main character is also selectively verbal and uses sign language frequently to communicate. She also has a tendency to disassociate when stressed. The other characters are so good at meeting her needs and it’s simply lovely to see Jam valued for who she is. There is also a non-binary character who uses they/them pronouns. This character is one of Jam’s best friend’s three parents. Redemption, a central character in the book, has three parents in a polyamorous relationship. They all share family duties and one bedroom. Pet uses no human pronouns at all and is simply referred to as “it”. All these characters show us a more utopian world.

Second: Voice!
The writing style of this book is perfect for a YA audience. The suspense is built throughout. Living in Jam’s head was both enlightening and pleasant for me, despite how different she is from me. Redemption, although we don’t get his thoughts in a third person POV, also has a clear and unique voice. At no point will the reader get characters confused with one another. Pet’s voice in particular is the best written, in my opinion. At no point in the book will the reader forget that Pet is something other, something nonhuman. Its mannerisms and patterns of speech are the highlight of reading this story.

Third: Plot!
Goodness. This story starts off in a completely different dimension of weird. When Jam and a smear of her blood pull a creature out of her mother’s painting, the strangeness starts. I don’t want to give much away here. Read the book. You’re going to love it.

Finally: Themes!
The blurb on the back of the book says it all. When we forget what monsters are like, that they are human like us, look like us, sound like us, are us – we allow the worst of ourselves to exist unchecked. Protecting one another and ourselves from what we are capable of requires that we are willing to see what we do not wish to see.

Simply stunning! A masterpiece of young adult fiction!

** For teachers and parents, there are mentions of painful topics in this book. They are treated with immense care and not described graphically. Some readers may not even pick up on the topics at all if they are not strong in decoding inferences. Have a conversation with your student about the end of this book and help guide them through an understanding of what happened and why. This leads to great discussions on justice. Is true justice restorative or retributive? A restoration back into the community through repentance and work, or punishment? **

“Good and innocent, they not the same thing; they don’t wear the same face.”

– Akwaeke Emezi, “Pet”

Pros:

  • The diversity of characters makes it easy to relate to someone, even in a society that doesn’t look like our own.
  • The angels are so fascinating that you’ll wish this book came with a few illustrations. (Think biblically accurate angels but with a more humanoid form)
  • Jam’s character is largely nonverbal. It is lovely to see how this is accepted and encouraged as it fits her needs (instead of simply tolerated or begrudgingly accommodated for).

Cons:

  • Sometimes it is hard to follow the true thread of the story because of how little Jam knows about what she is experiencing.

Rating:

  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“It was hard to keep secrets; you had to keep track of them, regulate how they moved through your body, make sure they didn’t swerve and jump out of your mouth.”

– Akwaeke Emezi, “Pet”

Recommended For:

  • Those looking for something eerie that’s outside of your typical thriller genre
  • Those interested in the folk tales we tell of good and evil
  • Those looking for diverse characters and a complex story

Books to Read if You Loved Pet:

  • Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi (Jam’s mother’s story) (same author!) (Review coming on Wednesday!)
  • On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (graphic novel with same eerie atmosphere)
  • Once & Future (equally diverse cast with deep questions about justice – a female King Arthur in space!)

Let’s Discuss! (Pick a question and drop a comment with your reply!)

  • What symbolism do you think might be behind Pet’s name or purpose in the story?
  • Is true justice restorative or retributive? A restoration back into the community through repentance and work, or punishment?
  • What is the last book you read that made you think on a deep and applicable question about society?

5 responses to “Pet by Akwaeke Emezi”

  1. Such deep thoughts. Truly refreshing to read. @thebookaholic_dentist

    Like

    1. Thanks! I appreciate the comment!

      Like

  2. Magali Huertas Avatar
    Magali Huertas

    Love your review! Didn’t know much about this one but now I am definitely going to add it to my TBR 🥰
    @karisreading

    Like

    1. I hope you love it! It was so different from anything else I read.

      Like

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