Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Publisher: Make Me a World
Copyright Date: 2019
Reading Age: 12-17
Reading Level: Grades 7-9
Awards: Stonewall Book Award, Walter Honor Book, Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Jam lives in a time where those who once preyed upon others no longer exist. Monsters have been removed from society, and children are allowed to grow up with their innocence intact. Then one night, a drop of blood falls onto a still-wet painting created by Jam's mother, and a creature emerges, intent upon hunting a monster. Are the children in the city of Lucille as safe as the adults assume them to be? There is a shadow living in Jam's best friend's house, and Pet has come to confront it.
There is a diversity of characters in Pet—a transgender main character, a non-binary character, a polyamorous parental unit as well as varying ethnicities—and those characters are described in a matter-of-fact way that is refreshing and unapologetic. The descriptions of Jam and the other characters is straightforward but rich, allowing readers to care about the people in the story without having the part spoon-feed to them. The writing is straightforward in a way that is approachable to reluctant readers with a story and concept that will be interesting for teens of all reading levels. Emezi has created an interesting future where monsters no longer exist. These monsters were a regular part of existence even up until the parents of the current children's generation but after much fighting, much allowing of creatures from other dimensions to help jail those monsters, the newest generation has been allowed to grow up in an environment with a sense of safety unheard of to anyone who came before. While many sacrifices were made in order to get to this level of safety, those sacrifices were justified as all kids are now allowed to grow up with their innocence intact. There is an examination of what monsters really are when Jam mistakenly allows a misshapen, scary creature to enter their world from another dimension. While Pet may look like a monster on the outside, it is hunting a monster that is on the inside of a human. The story looks at how much people want to cling to the idea of comfort, especially when it has been dearly bought, but how important it is to continue to see the world with clarity and fight for those who may not have the power to protect themselves. It is commendable to celebrate the good things in life, but you shouldn't allow that to make you blind to the harm being done to others.
In the near future, all monsters have been eradicated. Children no longer need to fear predators and are allowed their innocence—at least that's what everyone assumes.
About the Author
Featured on the cover of TIME Magazine as a Next Generation Leader (June 2021) for their debut memoir DEAR SENTHURAN, Akwaeke Emezi (b. 1987) is an artist and writer based in liminal spaces. Their art practice is located in the metaphysics of Black spirit and uses video, performance, writing, and sculpture to create rituals processing their embodiment as a nonhuman entity/an ogbanje/a deity's child. They are represented by Jacqueline Ko at The Wylie Agency for books, and by Chris Lupo at Verve Talent & Literary Agency for film/TV.
A National Book Foundation '5 Under 35' honoree, Emezi was born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria. They were named one of The New Hollywood Guard: Writers by Vanity Fair and their romance debut YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY is forthcoming from Atria Books in 2022, with the screen rights selling to Amazon Studios in a seven-figure deal with Emezi as executive producer. Their debut poetry collection CONTENT WARNING: EVERYTHING is also forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2022 and their sophomore YA novel BITTER is will be published in February 2022 by Knopf Books.
Their debut YA novel PET (Make Me a World/RHCB) was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and a Lambda Literary Award, as well as an Indie Next selection. Praised in The New York Times, it received a Stonewall Honor, a Walter Honor, and an Otherwise Award Honor after debuting with five starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Bookpage, and Bulletin. PET was also named a 2019 Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Apple, and Amazon, among others. Upon its publication, Emezi was featured in Kirkus Reviews and profiled in The New York Times. (About the author information found here. Image found here.)
Discuss what it would mean to live in a world without monsters, i.e. predators, those who hurt others.
Jam interacts with a character who emerges from a painting, something that looks like a monster sent to hunt a real monster. Talk about that aspect of the story.
Challenge issues: LGBTQIA+, polyamory, violence, molestation
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There is a diversity of characters in Pet—a transgender main character, a non-binary character, a polyamorous parental unit as well as varying ethnicities—and those characters are described in a matter-of-fact way that is refreshing and unapologetic. The writing is straightforward in a way that is approachable to reluctant readers with a story and concept that will be interesting for teens of all reading levels. It challenges readers to confront what monsters really are, set in a science fiction mystery with a dimensional twist.