Ahoy there me mateys! I received this young adult fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
pet (Akwaeke Emezi)
Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Publication Date: TODAY!! (hardcover/e-book)
I wanted to read this book because of the tagline “How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?” I thought this would be fun. Instead, this book was heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and vitally important. Because this book focuses on the real monsters in our own world hiding behind the pleasant masks and titles and opinions of others.
This book was published by the imprint, Make Me A World. I hadn’t heard of them but went looking as soon as I was finished this book. Their website says:
MAKE ME A WORLD is an imprint dedicated to exploring the vast possibilities of contemporary childhood. We strive to imagine a universe in which no young person is invisible, in which no kid’s story is erased, in which no glass ceiling presses down on the dreams of a child. Then, we publish books for that world, where kids ask hard questions, and we struggle with them together, where dreams stretch from eons ago into the future, and we do our best to provide road maps to where these young folks want to be. We make books where the children of today can see themselves and each other. When presented with fences, with borders, with limits, with all the kinds of chains that hobble imaginations and hearts, we proudly say—no.
For me, this book certainly epitomizes this philosophy. It asks hard questions, has hard answers, and still provides hope.
Set in a future utopia called Lucille, the children have been told that there are no longer monsters. There are no police, no politicians, no jails, no uneven distribution of wealth, or even much fear. Diversity is welcomed. The protagonist, Jam, is black, trans, and has selective mutism. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Parents actively care about and love their children. Society at large believes in hope and comfort. The adults made hard, horrible choices so that their children can grow up in a better world.
The problem with the society lies in the fact that in order to protect their children, the adults have chosen to ignore reality. Selective education is in play. Children supposedly don’t need the harsh truths of the past. The information isn’t hidden, it just isn’t taught and children are encouraged not to go looking. The world is better now. As Matey Acqua puts it:
Pet is a story about how evil – any kind of evil – thrives in plain sight when people start refusing to look for it, to acknowledge that it can and does exist. It’s a story about how this refusal of any kind of discomfort, this hiding from the world’s truth, hurts and silences victims.
Discomfort is the key word. This book showcases that when people chose to ignore the problems of the world and live in a bubble of their making, it allows evil more freedom to silently hurt without repurcusion. Parents may want to shield their children but unfortunately humans are flawed and bad things can and will happen in the world.
For me, the highlight of this book seems to be the message that young adults can be a force for change and have a responsibility to stand up for each other and care about the world around them – good and bad. I thought the author did an especially good job showcasing both positive future changes and the idea that people cannot grow too complacent or stagnant.
Part of this is reflected in how the story is set up. There is a blend of magic which awes but cannot fix and mixed with the very harsh truths. The “pet” referenced in the title is a magic being that comes out of a portal in a painting to hunt the evildoer. His very existence challenges societal truths about belief. It is a hard lesson for Jam who has to face her fears and decide what justice means to her. Because after all, whatever happens, the victim and those around them will be changed and the hurt cannot be undone.
The highlights of this book were the diversity and Jam’s relationships. I adored how the evil looking pet challenges and changes Jam’s perceptions even as I was sympathetic to Jam’s struggles. Also Jam’s relationship with her best friend, Redemption, was beautiful. This was a book with no romance between the teens and positive adult relationships. I appreciated that.
The only minor flaw for me is that the child abuse in this book is glossed over just a tad in terms of what the symptoms are other than bruises. I understand why this was done. I am sympathetic to younger readers’ sensibilities. But I also wonder if there was a message lost to possible abuse sufferers in terms of identifying abuse in their own lives. I don’t have a good answer for this question but thought I would throw that out there.
Overall, I can say that this is a powerful book packed into a shorter length. I am glad this is now out there in the world. We need more books like this.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Random House Children’s / Make Me A World!
Goodread’s has this to say about the novel:
Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours 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?
In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.
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