“Listen to me, little girl,” it said. “You want many things, you are full of want, carved out of it, made from it, yes. But the truth does not care about what you want, the truth is what is is. It is not moved by want, it is not a blade of grass to be bent by the wind of your hopes and desires.” Pet put its hands on her shoulders, leaning its layered face close to hers. “The truth does not change whether it is seen or unseen,” it whispered in her mind. “A thing which is happening happens whether you look at it or not. And yes, maybe it is easier not to look. Maybe it is easier to say because you do not see it, it is not happening. Maybe you can pull the stone out of the pool and put the moon back together.”
The truth. It is something we all say we want, but rarely accept when presented with it. The truth can be freeing, devastating, maddening and crushing. But the truth can also bring light and justice, although not for all. The truth is what drives Pet, the new novel from acclaimed writer, Akwaeke Emezi.
Jam lives in the newly-safe town of Lucille. Loved by her parents, Bitter and Aloe, she and her friend Redemption have only heard stories about the revolution that sought out and destroyed all of the monsters. Lucille no longer has monsters. Or does it? It isn’t until an accident in her mother’s art studio that Jam learns that the monsters may still exist. But is she willing to see what has been unseen for so long?
Pet is so unbelievably timely it’s practically eerie. Ms. Emezi writes of unseen truths, which is what our society is dealing with right now. Many of us have been blinded by the truths of racism, sexism, hatred and cruelty for so long, that we have been jolted awake by their impacts on our world. Jam’s life has also been jolted awake by the truth she must face, no matter how hard she tries to deny it. The bubble she has been living in is shattered and Jam must decide if her fear will outweigh her duty to hunt the monsters.
I read this book so quickly and lost some sleep finishing it, but it was well worth it. Ms. Emezi knows how to spin a tale in a way that makes the reader fall deeply into it. The novel didn’t feel rushed but the events move quickly. The author’s language is rich and colorful, from the names of the characters to the details of Bitter’s painting. Even the way the characters speak is a celebration of language. There is movement everywhere, even in the quiet moments. I loved the way Ms. Emezi described Jam’s senses when she listens to the sounds in her home. It reminded me of the times I would lie awake at night as a child, listening to the quiet in my own home.
One of the loveliest moments in Ms. Emezi’s book is her description of Jam’s trans journey. I was moved by the love and acceptance she receives from her parents, something many in the trans community, particularly Black trans women, do not receive in real life. Her parents treat Jam’s decision with empathy and understanding, which made me hope that those same feelings become reality for everyone who goes through the same journey.
I said this on Twitter and I will say it again: pre-order Pet or you’ll feel like a fool if you don’t. This is a book that should be read as soon as possible and multiple times. Since I’m no fool, I’ll be pre-ordering my own copy so I can read it again. I highly recommend it.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley. The quote cited above may be changed in the final version.