My local bookstore recently reopened for in-house service, with requisite safety measures in place (i.e. limited occupancy, mask-wearing, and adherence social distancing.) Of course, once it officially reopened, I high-tailed it over there to get my fix. Amazon Prime has its conveniences (and its controversies). But it will never compare with the experience of searching for titles in a real brick and mortar establishment. L*rd, how I missed it.
I have to admit, sometimes I do judge a book by its cover. Especially, in the case of actual books. The cover of PET immediately drew my attention, with its shades of purple and the beautiful expressionless girl standing in the foreground with a feather in hand, a question posed just below her lime-green slippered feet: “Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?” I knew I’d be leaving the bookstore with a copy of PET in tow.
PET, by Akwaeke Emezi, is a fascinating tale of angels and monsters. The story begins with the main character, Jam, checking out some books from the library which detail the history of her hometown of Lucille. It quickly becomes clear that these angels and monsters didn’t physically present as their titles would have suggested. Years and years ago, way before Jam was born, Lucille was in the midst of an all out battle for its survival. A war between good and evil. Troops of “angels” (some terrifying in appearance) engaged in a mission to rid Lucille of the monsters among them. The problem was these “monsters” weren’t always easy to detect. They carried no physical marker of their evilness. They looked just like everyone else. It was their actions (often hidden) that made them monstrous. Eventually, the angels succeeded in their objective. Every monster was eliminated. Or at least, that’s what they thought. Jam is constantly told by her parents and her teachers that Lucille is now a safe place. But when Jam inadvertently opens a portal through one of her mother’s paintings, allowing a creature called Pet to enter her world, she will soon learn a disturbing truth. With help from her best friend, Redemption, Jam will assist Pet in its mission to expose a hidden monster. But how will Jam get the rest of the town to see the present danger, when it’s easier to pretend that everything is okay? How will she get them to understand that when it comes to monsters, one must be constantly vigilant…constantly on the look-out? No place is ever truly safe.
PET was a great read, with diverse characters including trans and non-binary representation. I really enjoyed the interaction between Jam and Pet. They’re able to communicate telepathically. And they often act as the other’s conscience; challenging, confronting, and comforting each other every step of the way. The foundation of the story is particularly relevant at this time; addressing issues that we, in this country, and those around the world are currently facing. When societies drift into complacency, when we start to think we’ve reached the limit on what we need to achieve, we become socially lazy and insular. Self-interest beings to outweigh collectivism. And it’s those who are the most disenfranchised, the most vulnerable, who suffer. Everything may be stable in your home, but what about your neighbor’s? Have you checked in lately? We must look after each other because there will always be monsters lurking, waiting for an opportunity.