Cover of Pet: Black girl with hair tied up and in pajamas standing in a miniaturized version of city blocks

About the Book

Title: Pet
Published: 2019
Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Cover Story: Sim City
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: Genre Bender
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ+, Awesome Parents
Anti-Bonus Factor: Abuse
Relationship Status: Proud

Content Warning: This book features implied/off-page sexual and physical abuse of a child.

Cover Story: Sim City

Every time I saw this cover before reading the book, I thought this was a book about video games. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with books about video games, and there’s nothing wrong with this cover. It just doesn’t exactly fit.

I do love the depiction of Jam—her pjs are too cute—and the feather elements that hint at Pet, though.

The Deal:

Jam lives in a world in which there are no monsters. Many years prior, angels did the hard and dirty work of removing them from all aspects of life in her city of Lucille. Jam barely knows what monsters are, other than what’s taught in her history classes.

But then a creature—who is adamant it’s not a monster, regardless of its monstrous visage—exits one of Jam’s mother’s paintings, and tells Jam it’s there to hunt a monster. And Jam will help.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

Although she’s 15, Jam seems very young. Perhaps it’s a benefit of growing up in Lucille, a seeming utopia where everyone is loved and respected, regardless of race, sexual preferences, or gender identity.

She’s smart and determined, and uses the heck out her local library, but she has no real idea how many forms monsters can come in. I found myself wanting to wrap her up and keep her safe, which would have absolutely driven her crazy—she’s the kind of girl who would hate being coddled and kept in the dark “for her own good.”

But I really couldn’t help myself were we to know each other in real life. She’s just the kind of person who inspires a protective urge.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Were this a different book, we would have seen a lot more chemistry between Jam and her best friend Redemption. (Maybe when they’re a bit older?) But as things stand, they’re merely truly excellent friends who care about each other deeply. It’s a beautiful relationship.

Talky Talk: Genre Bender

Trying to categorize Pet is difficult. It’s a fantasy that feels real. It’s magical realism with paranormal elements. It’s part dystopian, part mythology, part parable. But the fact that it doesn’t fit a mold is one of the things that makes Pet so impressive.

Emezi’s strong storytelling and powerful, yet quiet, voice is another. Pet is a hopeful glimpse of the future while being a terrifying statement on how humanity will always have darkness, no matter how hard people try to drive it out. And in their writing, Emezi asks readers to draw their own conclusions about whether the book is utterly depressing or wonderfully optimistic. (Perhaps some of both?)

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Jam is transgender, but in the city of Lucille, in the future, it’s not seen as anything other than Jam being true to herself. Redemption has a parent who is non-binary (and also one of his three parents, but that’s a different type of Bonus Factor). I love Emezi’s view that we, as humans, will someday get past our hangups on letting people be who they are and love who they love.

Bonus Factor: Awesome Parents

Parents from Easy A smiling and looking into a laptop during a video chat

Jam’s parents are excellent folk who give Jam just the right amount of autonomy and freedom. They’re a little too well-meaning at times, but as Jam is only 15, and a young 15 at that, I get where they’re coming from. (Yes, I am agreeing with the parents. I’m an Old.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Abuse

Clenched fist pounding into a table

As you can tell from the Content Warning at the top of this review, Pet deals with some heavy topics. It’s both rage-inducing and heartbreaking to read, but the book deals with it deftly and intelligently.

Relationship Status: Proud

It’s an honor to know you, Book, and have spent time listening to your story. You’re a bit of an understated read, but no less important for your quiet voice.

Literary Matchmaking

When the Moon Was Ours

All of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books include LGBTQ characters who are undeniably themselves in magical realism settings, but their When the Moon was Ours is particularly poignant.

Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1)

Nina Varela’s Crier’s War is another lovely LGBTQ story with more of a focus on romance, but also an examination of “humanity.”

Akata Witch (Akata Witch #1)

Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch is another book about a powerful young woman discovering her inner strength.

FTC Full Disclosure: I bought a copy of this book with my own money and got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Pet is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.