Written by: Akwaeke Emezi
Cover Art by: Shyama Golden
For ages: YA (CW: child abuse. Mention of bruises and insinuation of pedophilia)
Language: English, some French Creole.
Topics Covered: Black Culture & Identity, BIPOC Narratives, Sci-Fi, LGBTQ Lives, Growing Up, Friendship, Social-Emotional Learning, Transgender Youth, Family, Art.
This book is phenomenal. Jam is a teenage girl living in a town called Lucille where there used to be monsters, but aren’t anymore due to the rebellion when Jam’s parents Bitter and Aloe were her age. The unique thing about this world-building that Emezi has done is to create an entirely believable community situation that applies to our society today. “Monsters” look just like you and me, and we don’t know where they lurk. Believing that monsters have disappeared allows them to flourish secretly and this is what Jam learns after Pet shows up.
Jam is a fascinating character and wonderful protagonist. She prefers to use sign language for her main communication, but does voice occasionally. Jam transitioned early on in her life, and she has memories of her best friend Redemption’s family coming to visit her when she got affirmation surgery a few years prior to the book taking place. Jam can also read energy somewhat psychically, and has a habit of touching the floor in her house to read what’s happening in other rooms. When Pet shows up saying there is a monster that needs to be hunted, her parents order her to banish Pet but Jam is not so sure. What if there is a monster in Redemption’s house?
Pet is a book that reminds readers that monsters can lurk in the unlikeliest of places, and might even try to convince society that they don’t exist. Jam learns that it’s easy to not see what you don’t want to go looking for because it might disrupt the happier vision in one’s head.
About the Author & the Cover Artist:
Akwaeke Emezi is a writer and video artist based in liminal spaces and a 2018 National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35’ honoree. Their sophomore adult novel, THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI, has been named one of the most anticipated books of the year by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Library Journal. It is forthcoming from Riverhead Books on August 4, 2020 and is available for pre-order now.
Emezi’s debut YA novel PET (Make Me a World/Random House Children’s Books) received a 2020 Walter Honor and was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature as well as an Indie Next selection, debuting with five starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Bookpage, and Bulletin. It has been named a 2019 Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Apple, and Amazon, among others. Emezi was recently featured in Kirkus Reviews and profiled in The New York Times.
Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant in 2017 for the video art in their project The Unblinding, and a Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction. Their writing has been published by T Magazine, Dazed Magazine, The Cut, Buzzfeed, Granta Online, Vogue.com, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Their memoir work was included in The Fader’s ‘Best Culture Writing of 2015’ (‘Who Will Claim You?‘) and their experimental short UDUDEAGU won the Audience Award for Best Short Experimental at the 2014 BlackStar Film Festival.
Emezi is currently making video art and working on their sixth novel.