Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Pet by: Akwaeke Emezi

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy 

Published: September 10, 2019 by: Make Me A World 

Pages: 208 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: discussions of racism and transphobia, familial abuse, body gore


Jam and the other children of the town of Lucille, live in harmony knowing that monsters no longer exist. Jam is able to live in a world where she can be unapologetically herself, and she and her best friend Redemption are looking forward to growing up in a world that respects them. That is, until a creature called Pet comes to life. Pet tells Jam that there is a monster hidden in Redemption's house, and its job is to hunt them down. Pet is suddenly faced with the realization that some monsters may have been left behind, and Pet will stop at nothing until the monster is conquered. 

This was a book unlike anything I have experienced before. With a unique premise and beautiful, lyric writing that Akwaeke Emezi does so well, Pet was a riveting novel from beginning to end. While I did have some minor issues with some of the themes, I think this book is perfect for young adults and adults alike who want to be immersed in a diverse world of characters who just want to keep the peace. 

Jam is a vibrant teenage girl, who is also transgender. However, her identity as a transgender girl is not something that is filled with trauma and hardship. Her parents are fully accepting of her, and accepted her as a girl the moment she realized she was one at such a young age. I found the detail that Jam knew she was a girl at just three years old so important, as trans kids are often told by transphobic adults that they can't possibly know their identity so young. But Jam does, and she lives a full life. 

I also loved Jam's friend, Redemption, and his close family. Redemption's parents are in a queer, polyamorous relationship, and this kind of familial bond was so amazing to see. Rarely ever do we see authors write of polyamorous relationships, and especially in young adult novels. I commend Emezi for writing a book that was filled to the brim with representation. Emezi never writes what colonialism has taught us is the "normal," and I appreciate that. 

This book is placed in a utopian setting, in which all of the monsters of the world have been destroyed. Homophobia, transphobia, and racism don't exist anymore, and Jam never even thinks that she will face these monsters. However, Pet throws Jam for a loop with the reveal that there is a monster still left. The idea of a utopian setting is not something that I usually read about, as I am more used to dystopia. But putting Jam into a world of utopia was so important, so that she can grow up without trauma or fear. Jam is also selectively mute, and her family and friends respect this. She is such a layered character and was a joy to read about. 

The one and only problem I had with this book, is that some of the action towards the end of the book was a bit jarring. I was very much caught up in the idea that this was a utopian setting, so the reveal of a monster and the inevitable climax did disturb me a bit. However, this is completely a reflection of my personal opinion and where my head was at during the time of reading. I was in a place where I really just wanted to read something cheerful, and while this book is full of joy, it does also contain some darkness. I think I didn't necessarily read this book at a time that was right for me, however I'd be totally willing to give it a re-read. 

Overall, you need to read Pet. Akwaeke Emezi is one of the best writers of their generation, and they bring such a treasured tradition of Nigerian culture and oral storytelling to their works. I'd be curious to read Emezi's next young adult books, as their work is such an important part of literature. 

Have you read Pet? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. I think writers steer clear of utopias, because it's much harder to create tension and conflict in the plot in a world that's 'perfect' - sounds like Emezi made a good go of it though! :)

    1. For sure! I do think it's easier to build up tension in a dystopia, however the tension in this utopia was a lot more jarring because of the perfection of the world.

  2. This sounds fabulous. I'll admit the idea of a utopian setting is kind of appealing- after all, in these dark times we need positivity, right? But at the same time the premise is super compelling.

    1. I'd be willing to read more books with utopian settings. I think authors can do some really cool things with them!

  3. I listened to Pet on audio so there was always an undercurrent of the monsters for me because of the narrator voices so that's interesting how a different format can give a different feel.

    I really liked this one too and the originality of it.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    1. It was such a unique book. I can imagine the audiobook format makes it sound even more incredible!