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Pet

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Pet Book Poster Image
Girl hunts for a monster in strange, beautiful fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story illustrates that dangerous people, "monsters," look just like ordinary people. Sometimes even people who seem to be pillars of the community may not be who they seem.

Positive Messages

Be brave enough to face ugly truths.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a selectively mute transgender teen girl with a supportive family and a solid best friend.

Violence

A young boy is physically and possibly sexually abused. A woman said to be the product of her mother's rape. In one scene, a character is graphically disfigured. 

Sex
Language

Infrequent strong language, including "s--t" and variations of "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi, is a science fiction-fantasy novel about a transgender teen girl who hunts a child abuser in her town with the help of a creature that comes to life from her mother's painting. Jam lives in the town of Lucille, where, according to all the adults, "monsters" (people who commit abuse against others) have been eliminated by "angels" (valiant members of the community who led a revolution). There's infrequent strong language, including "s--t" and variations of "f--k." Three specific instances of violence occur: A child is physically, and possibly sexually, abused. A woman is said to be the product of rape. The revenge against the abuser is graphic.

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What's the story?

When PET begins, Jam, a transgender teen girl, lives in the town of Lucille, where "monsters," people who abuse others, have been rooted out in a revolution led by "angels," revered members of the community. Jam learns about these angels and monsters in school. She's curious about supernatural angels. She's also aware that her mother, Bitter, was the product of a monster's abuse of her grandmother. Jam accidentally brings to life a creature from one of her mother's paintings. It tells her to call it Pet and that it has come to hunt a monster in the house of her dear friend Redemption. Jam's parents tell her there are no more monsters. They instruct her to send the creature back to the other world from which it came. Unwilling to risk the possibility that her friend might be hurt, Jam secretly allows Pet to remain in the world and commits herself to hunting the monster.

Is it any good?

This exquisite and strange book could be a great comfort for the kind of young reader who feels alone in facing the world's darkness. Akwaeke Emezi (Freshwater, adult fiction long-listed for the Carnegie Medal and National Book Award) decided that Pet, her debut YA novel, would depict a teen who's not yet sexual and a transgender character whose life is not tragic. Jam is accepted, supported, and loved, and gets to have an adventure. She's a regular kid, relatable to any kid who feels different. The trouble in Jam's world comes not from her identity but from the fact that the adults of her town are steeped in denial about what's going on in the world. They've forgotten that ordinary humans can be monsters. Jam partners with a supernatural creature that helps her hunt the monster in their midst and counsels her not to be afraid.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how a community tries to keep safe in Pet. The adults of Lucille believe their children are safe because they've gotten rid of the monsters, protected them from the divisive illusions of religion, and hidden the most disturbing parts of their history. A monster slips through anyway. What else might they have done?

  • The characters in Pet have odd names. Jam's mother was named Bitter because she's the product of a rape. What do you think is the significance of the other names, like Aloe, Redemption, and Glass?

  • Pet comes to life from her mother's painting. Can you think of other stories where someone creates something that takes on its own life? How is this story different from those?

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