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Review: Pet

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

1/5 stars

Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi (2019)

UGH. I really didn't enjoy this book. I'm so confused by all the praise it has received (including as a finalist for the National Book Awards Young People's Literature). I enjoyed Emezi's The Death of Vivek Oji, and was looking forward to trying this one.

I liked the fact that the main character, Jam, is a trans teenage girl. But descriptions of the characters started to feel like a checklist of PC-ness... Her best friend has three polyamorous parents, her favorite librarian is in a wheelchair, Jam is trans and also chooses not to "voice" most of the time, so uses sign language instead. None of these choices served any purpose. Just felt like insincere lip service - which is surprising given that Emezi uses they/them pronouns, and expertly (I thought) discussed sexual identity in Vivek Oji.

Anyway, so basically here's the plot: Jam lives in a town called Lucille, where there are no monsters anymore. Instead there are angels. They look like regular people, and they helped get rid of the monsters. Some of the monsters were police who hurt people. Some were politicians. Some were... whatever, a bunch of other super heavy-handed references to "bad guys." Anyway, then what looks like a monster, named Pet, appears in Jam's home, and says they have to go hunt down a real monster, who is in the home of Jam's best friend, Redemption. (Yeah, also all the names are annoying, like Whisper, Moss, Glass, Bitter, and Aloe). So, they go do that, and then there's a bunch of weird, unnecessary violence where the "monster," who's a person who has done something bad, is basically tortured and maimed. And I guess that's justice? The end.

For me, it was the worst kind of children's/YA writing... like, written by someone who maybe just hasn't read enough literature aimed at young people to know that you don't have to be patronizing, condescending, and so incredibly obvious. This book lacked finesse entirely. If I hadn't already read another book by the author, I would think Emezi was a completely incompetent writer.


UP NEXT: My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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