Date Published: September 10, 2019
Book Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Summary reviewed by:
Bachelor of Arts (BA), University Of California, Santa Barbara 2019
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Unearth the Forbidden in "Pet," Where Angels Fall and Monsters Rise in a Town That’s Forgotten Them Both! Lucidity hides behind closed doors in the utopian city of Lucille. A place where angels eradicated all the monsters, freeing the people from harm—so the story goes. Enter Jam, a trans girl who speaks without a voice, blooming in a bubble of parental love. But art births life in an unexpected ritual; Jam's mother’s painting unfurls into a being called Pet, a hunter of monsters, roaring into existence to sniff out a predator lurking in her best friend Redemption’s house. A mind-shattering tale that tears apart the veneer of societal nirvana to ask the haunting question—what if the true monsters are those we choose not to see?
Spoilers (click here to reveal spoilers)
In a shattering revelation, Pet, Jam, and Redemption unmask the monster hiding in plain sight—Redemption’s uncle, Hibiscus. For years, he’s been abusing Redemption’s little brother, Moss, cushioned by the community's unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of monsters amongst them. A gut-wrenching confrontation ensues, orchestrating a narrative of healing and justice, facilitated by Jam and Pet. The community can no longer pretend their world is monster-free. Lucille must confront its self-imposed blindness, and Pet, its purpose fulfilled, returns to the painting from whence it came. The myth of a utopia shatters, but the promise of a safer, more vigilant community takes its first breath.
Jam: A trans girl who speaks through sign language, carving love into the silence of her life. Values honesty, as seen in her forthright approach to uncovering uncomfortable truths.
Pet: Emerges from a painting, an avenging beast with a justice-seeking nose. Its value lies in exposing concealed evils, demonstrated when it chooses to manifest to hunt a hidden monster.
Redemption: Jam’s best friend, an embodiment of empathy and unconditional love. His commitment to family is evident when he stands by Jam despite the danger and gravity of Pet’s revelation.
Aloe and Bitter: Jam’s parents, who teach her the language of love and freedom. Their value in family is manifested in their unwavering support for Jam’s identity and her perilous mission.
Hibiscus: Redemption’s uncle, an unsettling reminder that evil can wear a familiar face. Values self-preservation, shown through his calculated manipulation to keep his monstrosity a secret.
Perception of Good and Evil: The story dismantles binary definitions of monsters and angels, shown through the community’s struggle to accept that a ‘good’ man could be a monster.
Identity and Self-Discovery: Explored through Jam’s journey as a trans girl and Pet’s manifestation to fulfill its destiny. They challenge the norms, question the accepted, and find their true selves.
Community and Responsibility: Lucille’s community turns a blind eye to possible evil, suggesting that a collective willingness to confront uncomfortable truths is needed for justice and safety.
Power of Language: Sign language for Jam, visual art for her mother, and spoken word for others; the book lauds multiple ways of communicating, each as valid and as potent as the others.
Justice and Healing: After the confrontation, the story places emphasis on justice that heals, rather than punishes. Redemption and his family start the process of healing, setting an example for the community.