Pet by Awaeke Emezi is an examination of who truly are the monsters amoung us and are there really any angels to be had. Told in a way that I’m not used, this story either seems to take place in the future or in an alternate present. People live without fear of ‘monsters’ (bad people), poor morals, or even last names. No surnames are given and even children who love their parents call them by their first names. And their given names generally mean something. The protagonist’s name is Jam, likely because her parents think she’s so sweet. Her mother is named Bitter, due to her being conceived by rape. Jam can speak out loud but prefers to sign instead and has an odd obsession with ‘angels’, the good people who brought on a time of peace, and ‘monsters’, the wicked people who were responsible for all of the turmoil in Lucille, the land that they live in. Essentially, honest politicians doing dishonest things to unseat dishonest politicians. Jam’s best friend and possible crush, Redemption, has an uncle who was once one of the original ‘angels’ who fought against the ‘monsters’.
Bitter is a painter and one day, Jam sneaks into her studio to see her new painting. Its ugly and scary, and looks like every monster Jam has ever imagined. There’s a razor hidden in the picture and tripping, Jam knocks the painting over, cuts herself, and releases the creature by the name of Pet from it. Pet says that he is there to hunt hunt a monster, a real monster, hiding in Redemption’s home… This story touches on so many weighty things, including monsters masquerading as angels, and angels with the talons of monsters. What it DOESN’T do is harp on the point of sexuality or sexual identity. The author beautifully describes a character who loves her parents, loves to read, loves her best friend, loves life, and just so happens to be trans. The biggest thing about her isn’t what’s between her legs, but what’s in her heart and mind, as it should be.
*****This review is based on an ARC that was given for free in exchange for an open and honest review****