Book Review: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
“What does a monster look like?” asked Jam
“Monsters don’t look like anything, doux doux. That’s the whole point. That’s the whole problem”
Right from the start, I had a sense of something scary going on, not yet understanding what sort of monsters was being talked about, was this sci-fi or a metaphor for the monstrous actions of people against people?
You might say that this book is about a black selectively mute young transwoman, who experiences mental dissociation in the face of threat, but those truths are not the novel’s main point, more the backdrop to normality for Jam, meaning praise me, in the language Igboi, who is visited by a protector, Pet, a larger than life entity, with a mission of justice, to prevent the evil deeds of living montsers. Jam’s reality and challenges as a trans child, with a surgical implant, are obscured by the more urgent need to help her dear friend, Redemption, to find the monster in the family.
I became hooked by the sensitive imagery and tender language of a writer who understands what it means to be living on the margins of a society who doesn’t welcome everybody’s truth, especially when it doesn’t fit with their cis limiting beliefs around what is normal. Jam’s love for Redemption, and Mum and Dad’s love for Jam, are conveyed with a heart melting realism, inspiring me with hope and faith in humanity’s potential to do good.
Reviewed by David Lynch, volunteer.