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A thought-provoking and haunting novel about a creature that escapes from an artist's canvas, whose talent is sniffing out monsters in a world that claims they don't exist anymore. Perfect for fans of Akata Witch and Shadowshaper .

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster--and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also uncover the truth, and the answer to the question How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when the society around you is in denial.

208 pages, Hardcover

First published September 10, 2019

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Akwaeke Emezi

11 books7,341 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,349 reviews
Profile Image for The Artisan Geek.
445 reviews7,255 followers
October 3, 2019
------------------VIDEO REVIEW------------------

My chest is heavy, my throat is rough and my eyes are tearing. What a story, I can't believe it's over! I don't think I have ever been so upset for a story to finish. Emezi's writing is nothing less than remarkable and I need more - Freshwater it is. Will be uploading a review to my Youtube channel as soon as possible!

You can find me on
Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
September 23, 2020
3.5 stars, but could definitely be enjoyed by other readers. This is a charming and darkly whimsical story about a Black transgender girl who becomes friends with a mysterious creature. The utopian city and its “extinct” monsters is an intriguing yet simple idea that masks more complex meanings. I think I personally would have been more invested if the story were longer; it’s a short and sweet book that has a straightforward narrative, but at the expense of not developing further for what already is an interesting world and set of characters. I would have loved more of an adventure and surprise.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,793 followers
January 18, 2023

Angels can look like many things. So can monsters.

This book is hard to swallow. It is HEAVY, leaving the Reader with so much to process.

Pet is a wildly creative story following, Jam, a black transgirl, living in a sort of metaphorical Utopian city called, Lucille.

In this futuristic-feeling city, the angels have gotten rid of the all the monsters. There are no monsters left, or so they say.

Jam lives with her parents, Bitter and Aloe. They are so loving and supportive of Jam. She is content.

That is until one night, alone in her Mom's art studio, Jam accidentally cuts her hand and drips blood on one of Bitter's paintings.

Okay, no big deal, right? Her Mom won't get that mad.

But then the painting starts to come to life!

A being is literally crawling out of the canvas like being birthed into the world. It's big, it has horns, it has claws; Jam can't believe her eyes!!

This mess is certainly going to require a bit more explaining then a few drops of blood on a page.

Jam begins communicating with this new being. Its name is Pet and it says it is here to hunt a monster in the House of Redemption.

How can this be? There are no monsters left and Jam knows Redemption.

He's her best friend. She knows his whole family; there are no monsters there!

Pet is insistent though. It isn't wrong and Jam begrudgingly agrees to help it with its hunt. She doesn't think Pet will find anything, but she's goes along with it anyway, more to appease it than anything else.

Jam and Pet work together to try to weed out the monster hiding among them.

As mentioned above, this book is heavy. Initially, I was under the impression that this was Middle Grade for some reason, but that can't be correct. I would definitely classify this as YA and maybe the marketing even does that, I'm not sure.

Dealing heavily in metaphor, this story lays out a horrifying reality for Redemption and his family. I was moved by where this went and the that followed.

If you are looking for an impactful, unique, moving story to pick up this summer, with a ton of great rep and beautiful, metaphoric writing, you should ABSOLUTELY pick up Pet!

I am looking forward to reading more from Emezi!
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
September 10, 2019

All knowledge is good knowledge, Pet said.

I don’t know if that’s true, Jam thought back. It doesn’t feel true right now.

Truth doesn’t care if it feels true or not. It is true nonetheless.

in the world of books and publishing, some titles are marketed as YA with the expectation that they will have crossover appeal into the adult market, and some are intended to pull in strong-reading tweens looking to grow out of their middle grade options.

this one feels like it was written for the younger half of the YA audience.

because this is internet, i feel like i have to throw up a shield before i’m even attacked by clarifying what should be some very obvious things about that statement, like 1) this is an observation, not a criticism, because there need to be books for every age group and reading level and that excellent books exist across every genre and in every age category, and 2) i’m not saying this one doesn’t have appeal for adult readers, or even that i didn’t personally enjoy it, but overall, me-as-adult-reader felt that the message was a bit facile for a grown person/seasoned reader and would be considerably less-so to younger readers.

this is the first title from PRH’s Make Me a World imprint, and their own mission statement’s language suggests they are targeting a younger-than-teen audience:

MAKE ME A WORLD is an imprint dedicated to exploring the vast possibilities of contemporary childhood. We strive to imagine a universe in which no young person is invisible, in which no kid's story is erased, in which no glass ceiling presses down on the dreams of a child. Then, we publish books for that world, where kids ask hard questions, and we struggle with them together, where dreams stretch from eons ago into the future, and we do our best to provide road maps to where these young folks want to be. We make books where the children of today can see themselves and each other.

you can read the rest of it here

it’s a great idea for an imprint, with today’s increased demand for diversity and representation and #ownvoices in reading materials; “creating a conversation between the kinds of people who live in more than one world, and inviting young readers to make their own,” because if we want to start making better people than the ones we have now, the younger they are exposed to a range of cultures and experiences, the better. the central character in Pet is a black trans girl with selective mutism, and the book also features a hunky librarian who uses a wheelchair and a polyamorous relationship with a nonbinary person, so it’s working the diversity angle for sure, but it’s doing it pretty quietly—these characters and relationships exist because they exist in this and all worlds, but the bare fact of their existence is not the story’s focus.

the focus is…monsters.

it’s set in a near-future utopian city called lucille, and all of our contemporary problems and divisive conflicts appear to have been fixed: firearms banned, nationalism and religion eradicated, crime=solved for, with major leaps and bounds in medical technology that allows trans kids like our protagonist jam to ease into their true selves with a minimum of physical or psychological distress, and—most importantly—the complete elimination of ‘monsters’ in the world; where ‘monsters’ is a stand-in for all kinds of evil, and ‘angels’ are those who fought—and won—the monster-ending revolution.

the process by which all of this happened is brisk and glossed-over:

It was the angels who took apart the prisons and the police; who held councils prosecuting the former officers who’d shot children and murdered people, sentencing them to restitution and rehabilitation…The angels took the laws and changed them, tore down the horrible statues of rich men who’d owned people and fought to keep owning people.

jam’s generation is the first to be monster-free, and while talking about monsters is generally discouraged in lucille, jam’s mother indulges her, emphasizing the moral relativism of lucille’s ‘angels’:

"It not easy to get rid of monsters," she said. "The angels, they had to do things underhand, dark things."..."You can't sweet-talk a monster into anything else, when all it does want is monsterness. Good and innocent, they not the same thing; they don’t wear the same face.”

but of course, in a world without monsters, no one will recognize a monster when they see one, and there’s a danger in overprotection, in encouraging ignorance of the shapes monsters can take.

…when you think you’ve been without monsters for so long, sometimes you forget what they look like, what they sound like, no matter how much remembering your education urges you to do. It’s not the same when the monsters are gone. You’re only remembering shadows of them, stories that seem to be limited to the pages or screens you read them from. Flat and dull things. So, yes, people forget. But forgetting is dangerous.

Forgetting is how the monsters come back.

spoiler alert: there is a monster at the end of this book.

as far as basic plot, characterizations, and message, this is well-suited for a strong middle grade to YA audience. some of it will seem oversimplified to old-fogey readers like me, but there’s a lot of beautiful writing here, and with references to hannah arendt and gwendolyn brooks, it's got some sophisticated bones running through it.

i may not have loved it, but i liked it enough to make a this-month promise to finally read my copy of Freshwater; emezi's adult debut from last year. this is also the month i will get older and even more fogey-ish, so hooray for that, i guess.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,310 followers
September 25, 2019
First, some notes on representation.

➾Black, trans girl lead who is selectively verbal and uses sign language frequently
➾Entirely black cast
➾Jam's best friend has three parents (they are in a polyamorous relationship and one of the parents uses they/them pronouns)

Now, onto the book itself.

For a book that was so hard for me to describe prior to reading it, this has a relatively straightforward premise. It is set in the world of Lucille, a place where righteous "angels" have eliminated all monsters. This is a world without bad people who do bad things, or so Jam has been taught. But one night a creature emerges from Jam's mother's newest painting. It is horrifying to look at, asks that it be called "Pet", and says it is hunting for a monster.

This is a story that confronts the idea that bad people don't stop existing just because you refuse to acknowledge they exist. It's about morality and the power to stand up against even those who are closest to you. It is harsh and difficult to confront the fact that sometimes bad people exist and you didn't see them, that you too have turned a blind eye to the things they have done, but once you look it in the face you cannot remain inactive.

In a lot of ways, Lucille is a utopia. It exists in a world where trans children are trusted to know their own bodies and their own minds. Jam expresses her identity when she's only 3-years-old and the world lovingly embraces her and helps her with each step she wants to pursue. She has access to hormones, hormone blockers, and the ability to make her own choices about medically transitioning while also hearing that her identity will be accepted and embraced whether or not she decides to pursue these routes. Jam is also selectively verbal, occasionally voicing her thoughts aloud but mostly using sign language. This is also embraced by her community, and most of the people in her life (down to the extended family of her best friend) learn sign language as well to reiterate over and over again that she is accepted no matter what.

It's also an examination of the fact that utopias can't be forced to exist if those who inhabit the world refuse to make the hard choices. I think it's remarkable for that. This is a book unlike any that I've read before. The hunt for the monster is straightforward, and I'm sure that most adult and teen readers will know the direction the book is heading. But the point isn't the hunt, the point is the people who inhabit this world and how their complacency has impacted their apparent utopia.

Thanks so much to Make Me a World for gifting me this copy at BookExpo this year. It's a fascinating and beautiful book that I won't soon forget.

Note: I am white and cisgender, so please don't take my review as the only one. It is not remotely my place to remark on the quality of representation in this book. This book is by a black, nonbinary author and deserves to be celebrated for that and for so much more.
August 23, 2020

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Edit: please stop leaving me rude comments telling me that the female character is transgender. I have been informed and updated my GR shelves accordingly. I appreciated being informed and it does NOT affect my rating of the book. Leaving me sarcastic, rude comments is not educating and mocking me for missing something you think is "obvious" is being rude. Three stars means I LIKED the book and the only things I took issue with in PET were the themes of abuse and the very violent and surprisingly terrifying climax which I thought might be too much for younger kids since the violence freaked me out. I think that's fair.

"Who is even the target audience for this book?" I asked, while stirring my tea and clutching my pearls. No, but seriously, I'm not sure what age group this book is intended for. On the inside of the book, it says 12+ but I'm not 100% sure about that...

PET is the story of a young girl named Jam. She lives in this "utopian" society where people called "angels" have gotten rid of all the "monsters." From what I can tell, these angels and monsters are metaphorical, and monsters are abusers and criminals, and angels are those who either uphold the law or act as agents of justice. The only problem, this book warns, is that in a world without monsters, people forget what they look like...

Jam's mother, Bitter, is an artist. One day, she paints this especially creepy thing with corpse hands, fur, and feathers, with razor blades sticking out of its flesh. Jam trips and cuts herself on these blades, and when her blood mixes with the painting, the painting comes to life. A real life monster, only this monster claims its name is Pet and it's here to hunt the real monsters.

Most of the book is told in this overly precious narrative format that makes the book feel babyish. It kind of reminds me of Francesca Lia Block, if Francesca Lia Block were writing a Neil Gaiman-like middle grade novel. That should be really awesome, but this book wasn't because I felt like it talked down to its audience way too much and was a little too ridiculous, even for kids. (I mean, the heroine's name is Jam, her friend is Redemption, and their family members are named things like Hibiscus, Aloe, and Glass-- what.) Pet waltzes the line between scary and cute and for 90% of the book, wouldn't be out of place as an extra in Disney's Monsters Inc.--

--Until the climax, which is horrifying.

Seriously, beware, children. You're going to get scarred for life. What the actual fork did I read.

On the one hand, kudos to this book for making kids aware of abusers and the importance of shining the light on crimes that otherwise go unpunished. On the other hand, major down-vote for inconsistent tone and promoting however indirectly (violent) vigilante justice. I think there's a good message buried in this book but the story made it hard to find and I didn't really buy the world-building.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
August 22, 2019
when a highly awaited book actually exceeds my expectations all I wanna do is cry and give a sacrificial offering to whatever gods held its fate in their hands
Profile Image for may ➹.
480 reviews1,944 followers
June 22, 2021
this was brilliant and probably one of the most creative/unique books I’ve ever read

short rtc!
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
686 reviews247 followers
September 20, 2020
3.5 stars! ⭐️

“Monsters don't look like anything, That's the whole point. That's the whole problem.”

Pet is a book that diverged greatly from my original expectations. The storyline cleverly weaved an important message using methods I’ve never seen before.

~★~ What is this book about? ~★~

Jam has grown up learning that her town was filled with monsters. They’re all gone now, or so she thought, before one emerged from her mother’s painting. Pet is a creature of feathers and claws and horns, and tells Jam it is here to hunt a monster. One that lives in her best friend Redemption’s house. Jam has a hard time believing people can be monsters, much less that someone in Redemption’s family (who she practically considers her own) can be one.


I’m in awe at how nicely this story unravelled. Pet took a while to fully grasp my attention, though by the halfway point I was completely invested. Jam’s determination to help her friend and slow realization that people can be the best hidden monsters was executed perfectly.

The representation in Pet was beautiful to see! From what I can recall, every character in this book is black. Jam is transgender and has selective mutism, while another character is disabled (in a wheelchair).

This is a relatively short book, and I would definitely recommend it for the amount of impact it carries!
Profile Image for EmmaSkies.
139 reviews2,263 followers
March 28, 2023
Me this afternoon, recording my Trans Rights Readathon wrap-up: “I’m not done with this one but I’m pretty confident in saying it’ll probably be a 4.5.”

I am a FOOL. 5 stars.

I was vacillating between a 4.5 and a 5 but honestly the amount of anger some of the negative reviews that so thoroughly missed the point of the book awakened in me made me realize it’s a definite 5 for me.
Profile Image for Nadine in California.
931 reviews89 followers
June 26, 2020
I feel terrible about this one star review since Emezi's novel Freshwater is one of my all-time favorite books and I still see her as a budding writer of genius. I've never rated a book after reading just 17 pages, but in this case the writing on the wall was too clear. While I agree 1000% with the author's outlook, this book feels like a checklist of political correctness with characters and story awkardly draped over it. The overly sweet cheeriness of the language feels patronizing and didactic towards middle grades readers and only highlights the propagandistic approach. I get the feeling that the author hasn't read enough YA and children's books to see how they can enchant kids without talking down to them.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,006 reviews36k followers
July 21, 2019
Having been a ridiculously-crazy-mind-blowing fan of “FRESHWATER”, by Akwaeke Emezi’s debut autobiographical novel - It took seconds to request a copy of “PET”, the moment I saw the book on Netgalley.

I love the “About the Book”, sentence....created by the advertising folks:

Yes...yes...yes....I put on my ‘brave’ hat, wrapped myself in my new gorgeous ‘brave’ blanket ( made by my wonderful-moon-friend) - snuggled into my ‘brave’ chair- and started reading.....BRAVELY.
I KID YOU NOT....a reader must be ‘brave’ to read anything by Akwaeke Emezi. Her books are exceptionally experiential > filled with wisdom - insights - and depth. Emezi has the ability to tap into our personal inhibitions to experience both a fascinating tale and a moving transformation.

The wonderful blurb folks gave us this to ponder too:


We meet Jam - a black transgender teen who lives in a town called Lucille. She has loving parents: Bitter and Aloe.
Jam was taught that all the monsters in the world have vanished....ie: murderers, corrupt politicians, sex offenders, rapists, injustice, prejudice, and all types of abusers.
In Lucille -The town of Utopia - Angels are known, but not evil.

But.... perhaps not all monsters are really gone?/!
Perhaps children discover truths before their parents do.

It’s so tempting to want to share the page-turning creative-details - but I’ll be good...
so instead the characters with their thought-provoking names:
Jam, Bitter, Redemption, Aloe, Ube, Hibiscus, Moss, Glass, Malachite, and PET are waiting to meet you...( they will be happy to fill you in and give you a job to do)....

You are being invited come face to face with PET, a magical creature who feels human, who is roughly the same height as Jam ( PET calls Jam ‘little girl’.... her mother calls her ‘doux-flux’), other than PET has dark red horns and smoke wafting out of his mouth, smelling like ash.

PET, who was painted into life, doesn’t care what Jam or her parents want - only the truth of ‘what is’.
“The truth does not change whether it is seen or unseen”.

Sometimes it’s easier not to see… not to see what is happening. This is why you must be brave while facing the truth.

Jam remembers her mother, Bitter, telling her before the revolution had ended- Angels as hunters had to do dark things, hard things. They, too, had to be brave.

PET may need to do hard things, too.
Jam may have to do dark things....
They need your help readers...
Don’t be afraid ...
Put on your Sunday best brave clothes-of-armor....
And remember...
“All knowledge is good knowledge”!

A fantastical young adult book... one that adults will enjoy too.

Teachers, parents of middle age kids... this is a terrific book choice to read together.

Akwaeke Emezi is sooo brilliantly creative - SUCH A UNIQUE writer....I admire her extraordinary talent.

Thank you Netgalley, Random House Children, and Akwaeke Emezi

Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,657 reviews5,136 followers
December 29, 2021
This blew me away, truly. Akwaeke Emezi is an author I plan on reading more from very soon, because I genuinely spent this entire novella in awe of their talent and the love that radiated from these characters.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
531 reviews34.5k followers
April 23, 2022
I’m on BookTube! =)

"It wasn't like the angels wanted to be painted as heroes, but the teachers wanted the kids to want to be angels, you see?"

Wow... this book caused me to think about so many things. I don’t even know where to start but I think we’ll just go with the writing style first because it’s very unique but also kind of perfect to convey this important story to the reader. We see everything from Jam’s perspective and this was done so well. I mean Jam is a black trans girl that doesn’t speak and uses sign language instead (I think this is called selective mutism) so the language she uses to describe things and feelings is very different to those of other people. I really liked this about the book and it gave me a lot of “A Monster Calls” vibes.

”That was something she’d taught Jam – that a lot of things were manageable as long as they were honest. You could see things clearly if they were honest; you could decide what to do next, because you knew exactly what you were dealing with.”

Just like in “A Monster Calls” we have a very serious topic that is hard to put into proper words. It’s a tough one to understand for kids and I really liked that the monster helped Jam and Redemption to approach the topic. I think in some way the message is easier to convey if you have the help of a monster to do it, because after all you expect monsters to know about monstrous things, right?! What I really liked about the book is how it shows that even in a seemingly perfect world there can still be monsters. And if you don’t call them out and allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security you give them the power to do whatever they want to without them ever facing the consequences. After all there are no monsters in Lucille, at least not as long as you overlook their dark deeds and neither confront yourself or them with the truth.

”It was no small thing to try to restructure a society, to find the pus boiling away under the scabs, to peel back the hardened flesh to let it out. Jam had heard stories of how horrifying it had been to see the truth of how many monsters there were in Lucille – the public ones, the private ones, the chameleons, the freestyle solitary ones, the charismatic smiling ones.”

So the monsters in Lucille were seemingly normal people that did horrible things and the angels were also just normal people that rooted out those monsters. Alone this concept was already very intriguing because the so called “monsters” were actually human beings and didn’t look any different than everyone else. I felt really sorry for Jam and Redemption because they were the only ones that saw the monster for what it was and because the adults refused to believe in monsters this made it even harder for them to reveal the truth. They were both hurting so much and I wish I could have taken that pain away from them.

”She didn’t like keeping a secret from Redemption, but it wasn’t time to tell him about Pet, not yet. Not that telling would even work – you had to see Pet to accept that it was real in this world; the telling would never be enough. Words are never enough for a lot of things.”

I could understand why Jam felt so conflicted about telling Redemption because telling him would have made it real and who wants things like that to be real? But then again if no one found out about the truth others might have gotten hurt as well so yes it was horrible and exceptionally painful to reveal the monster, but it was necessary as well. To close your eyes to reality never helped anyone and it’s exactly this kind of lesson our two MCs had to learn. >_<

“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 it 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.”

Serious topics aside, another thing I really loved about the book was the diversity and the amazing representation. I mean everything in here was so natural and casual. When Bitter and Aloe found out that Jam was a girl and not a boy, they just took it in stride and made sure that she got all the help she needed in order to transition into a girl. And this was super wholesome and extremely amazing to read about! I wish every parent of a trans kid would react like that. Plus can we acknowledge the awesome and effortless polyamorous relationship between Redemptions parents?

"His mother, Malachite, was punching down bread dough in a large ceramic bowl, the sleeves of her linen shirt rolled up to her elbows, her mouth open in a laugh and her eyes crinkled. His father, Beloved, was sitting on a stool across from her, sketching her face while the recipient of her smile, Redemption's third parent, Whisper, juggled three oranges and a grapefruit, their eyes focused on the fruit, tongue sticking out in concentration."

Not to mention the fact that Whisper, the third parent, went with they/them pronouns and it was the most natural thing ever! I loved that so much! <333 Plus Whisper was continuously non-binary. We never got any hint about their original gender and that was so damn wholesome. I mean there are so many books in which the original gender (or the body parts) of non-binary characters are revealed but I really loved the fact that it wasn’t done in here. Whisper was non-binary and that was it! Just amazing! <3

”Everyone, everything deserved some time to be. To figure out what they were. Even a painting."

All told I really enjoyed “Pet” and I was totally absorbed by the story. I constantly wanted to know how it would continue and this even though I knew the ending would hurt. (And it DID hurt, boy did it hurt...) A very important book that didn’t only tackle serious topics, but also confronts the reader and forces her/him/them to make the right choice even though it is difficult. Highly recommended if you already read “A Monster Calls” and survived the heartbreak.


I really enjoyed reading this and it actually kind of gave me “A Monster Calls” vibes?! Like it’s a topic that’s a tough one for kids to understand but with the help of a monster the message is easier to convey? I’ll give this more thought!

Full RTC soon!

I already spoke about this book in
My March TBR 2022 video and I’m very curious what it will be about. I read a couple of reviews but apparently this is one of those books you can’t describe without spoiling the plot. XD The blurb is pretty vague too so I guess the only way to find out about the book is by actually reading it. *lol*
Also it’s in the category of LGBTQ+ books and since the author goes by they/them pronouns I’m hoping for a non-binary or gender fluid rep?! *fingers crossed*

Did you already read the book and if yes, did you enjoy it? =)
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
December 13, 2020
I like this book's concept (how do you recognize evil in a world where evil shouldn't exist?), and on a technical level, the writing is excellent. However, I think there was a mistake made marketing Pet as a YA novel. This is undoubtedly a children's book - the voice and behavior of the main character is young (16-year old Jam reads like a child half her age), the plot is simplistic and straight-forward, and overall it tackles the very complex and interesting premise in a too simple way. I would have more appreciated this story if it were written for an older audience. As it is, Pet is just not for me. Although, with that graphic ending, methinks it isn't for kids either?
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
October 23, 2019
Pet is a story about how evil – any kind of evil – thrives in plain sight when people start refusing to look for it, to acknowledge that it can and does exist. It’s a story about how this refusal of any kind of discomfort, this hiding from the world’s truth, hurts and silences victims.

It follows Jam, a black trans girl with selective mutism who lives in Lucille, a town in a future version of America that would look like an utopia to us. Not only the people around Jam accept all of her as she is, Lucille as a whole doesn’t have “monsters” anymore: no police to fear, no hoarding billionaries or evil politicians or backstabbing bigots. Evil has been defeated, people say, but as Jam soon discovers, that’s never really the case.

This is a charming little book. It’s so short, but it has so much to say, with this world balanced between surreal and futuristic, in which creatures can come through paintings and monsters are still so familiar. It’s not contemporary, but it’s that kind of book that feels more real than reality, and one I would recommend to readers of all ages. I think that it’s technically a much-needed lower YA, as the main character is 15, but it’s accessible even to younger readers, and adults could get a lot out of it as well. From what Pet says about the nature of evil to what it says about what makes a monster, or an angel - not the appearance, not what they are, but what they do – there are a lot of important messages and reminders in this book.

I think it’s really interesting how, in an age range that is supposedly geared towards teenagers (so, from 13 to 19, and even then, people will tell you that it’s technically meant to be 14-17), characters that are younger than 16 are so uncommon in YA. I think this is one of the reasons this book felt so unlike every YA novel I had ever read before – Jam is a 15-year-old girl who actually feels like one, and Pet talks about the typical difficulties of being a young teen in the world: Jam doesn’t know how to communicate with her parents anymore, she’s slowly realizing that the world is uglier than she has believed for all her life, and is terrified that people won’t listen to her just because of her age. I remember experiencing all of these things myself, and it’s sad that the YA age range usually avoids dealing with these topics to favor storylines that are more appealing to adults instead.

Pet also focuses a lot on family dynamics, both in Jam’s own family – Jam’s relationships with her parents, Bitter and Aloe, is really developed, which is also uncommon in YA – and in her friend Redemption’s, in which Jam has been told “hides a monster”. I loved the portrayal of Redemption’s family, it’s so uncommon to see extended families and polyamory representation (Redemption’s parents are a woman, a non-binary person, and a man, but aunts and uncles are almost like parents to him too) in books, but even families that look perfect can have their ugly sides. And this is still a story with a happy ending, the best possible ending given the circumstances. Just because it has an important message, it doesn’t mean it has to be constantly painful.

And then there’s the relationship between Jam and Pet, the creature that came through Jam’s mother’s paining. I loved what this book did with Pet, especially what Pet meant to Jam – their complicated friendship, their disagreements abou how to pursue justice, and how Pet taught Jam to be brave and that sometimes discomfort is a positive thing.

I hope Pet ends up reaching a lot of people; I think most could get something useful from this.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,132 reviews1,390 followers
June 1, 2022
4.5 stars
A deceptively complex high middle grade / low YA about Jam, a 16-year-old sometimes mute Black trans girl who lives in a near future supposed utopia where all the "monsters" have been eradicated. But when she accidentally helps a creature from her mom's painting come alive, it tells her there is a monster in her friend Redemption's house. Heartbreaking and profound. One of the book's most salient points is how adults dismiss and outright ignore signs of abuse and children when they try to tell them about it. Content warning for childhood physical/sexual abuse.

Small quibble that I felt like Jam and Redemption acted quite young for 16. I would have found them more believable at 13 or 14. But that said I loved their friendship. I also loved how Jam's transness and tendency to sign instead of speak and the fact that Redemption has 3 parents in a poly triad were non-issues in the book.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,794 followers
October 11, 2020
This book was beyond deep...I don't think I even have the words to describe what I just read. I really think that this is one that I need to sit on and possibly read again before the year is over. I don't think that it's for everyone and there are quite a few things that can be considered content warnings. Wow...I think I'm still speechless.
Profile Image for Nathan Shuherk.
255 reviews2,000 followers
April 12, 2023
The emezi fandom makes complete sense now. And soon enough I’ll be in it
Profile Image for Callum McLaughlin.
Author 4 books84 followers
October 19, 2020
In this singular new offering from Emezi, we follow Jam, a teenage girl who lives in a world that has supposedly rid itself of “monsters”. She soon finds herself confronted, however, with a strange creature that has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings. Calling itself Pet, it tells Jam that a monster lives among them once again and that they must hunt it down together. Worse still, it tells her that the monster lurks within the home of Jam’s best friend, Redemption.

It’s frustrating when you have such mixed feelings towards a book that is so widely revered – especially when you hoped to love it too. With that in mind, I’ll start by talking about Pet’s merits, because I do think it has a lot to admire. It becomes clear to the reader very quickly precisely what kind of “monster” we’re dealing with, and Emezi strikes an excellent balance between due reverence for the big themes being tackled and an avoidance of gratuity – especially considering the book’s relatively young target audience.

With Pet being a literal manifestation of art as a means of confronting life’s difficulties, and our heroine quickly heading to the library to read up on monsters to equip her with the knowledge she’ll need to face one, there’s a subtle though excellent thread throughout about the value of the arts; its ability to document, educate, and empower.

The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse. Jam herself is trans and selectively mute due to anxiety, and though both of these facts are referenced several times, they are incidental to her role within the narrative. This kind of casual, normalised representation is just as important as stories that place trans and neurodiverse/mental health issues front and centre. I thought both aspects were handled beautifully.

If the book has a presiding theme, it’s the notion that true monsters hide within plain sight; that it’s crucial we remain vigilant to the kind of warning signs we may not want to accept, and that we step in to help those who need it. I love and wholly agree with this, but here is where the book’s execution began to fall apart for me, sadly.

In short, it all feels too rushed. The novel is simply too brief to allow sufficient breathing space for the many characters and the enormity of the situation they find themselves facing. As such, most of the side characters fade into obscurity. And fundamentally, though I warmed to Jam hugely, I could never shake the feeling that she was the wrong choice of narrator, as this simply isn’t her story to tell. In a similar vein, it felt like a real missed opportunity to me that the monster’s actual victim is never given a voice. Afforded a mere couple of passing references, they feel like little more than a plot device used to facilitate Jam and Redemption’s confrontation with the monster, lacking any depth, agency, or closure of their own. The book may be about stepping in to help others, but it still felt like an odd choice to sideline a crucial character in what is essentially their own story.

The book’s climax also sat very uncomfortably with me. There is initially some well-handled commentary on the futility of “killing monsters” (what I read as critique of the death penalty); arguing against its barbarity, suggesting that to live with your mistakes is a greater punishment, and explaining the value of having living examples of where society can go wrong, so we can better address the underlying issues that turn people into “monsters” in the first place and remain vigilant to their presence. This was all great, but then, (and consider the rest of this paragraph something of a spoiler warning) … Pet melts the eyes of the “monster” out of his head, torturing him physically and breaking him mentally, in order to force a full confession. Not only is this arguably a dubious moral message to be sending to young readers in and of itself, but it completely contradicts the book’s previous efforts to suggest that real monsters look like “normal” people – for want of a better phrase. By choosing to punish the villain by mutilating him, thus marking his body out as noticeably Other, Emezi unwittingly reinforces the harmful trope that physical flaws denote a corrupt interior.

As you can probably tell by my review, this is a deceptively complex novel and my feelings towards it are suitably conflicting. There’s no denying that Emezi is an interesting author tackling important themes through a bold lens. The many glowing reviews pouring in for Pet suggest I’m in the minority, but certain creative choices and (what was to me) a problematic outcome stopped it from winning my heart. I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot though. It will be interesting to see how it stands the test of time; whether its strengths outlast my initial frustrations, or whether the latter prove too great.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,080 reviews359 followers
January 28, 2021
I want to preface this by saying this was definitely a 'me not you' rating. There were so many things I loved in Pet - mainly Jam and Redemption and Pet themselves. The level of diversity is phenomenal, and should be as visible as this in other, more accessible literature. Jam is presented as who they are without any fanfare or gratuitousness and I loved that.

However, the world building really let's this down, as it is severely lacking any great depth or set up, without any explanations as to why the world is suddenly without 'monsters' and what angels are and why. And for this reason I just couldn't connect with the plot. There's too much talking, not enough plot development for me, and the writing also sits somewhere between middle grade and YA, to the extent that it really threw me off.

I really want more diversity in books like this, but I also want a tighter plot and better world buildin to go with the great characters.
August 14, 2019
A refreshing #OwnVoices story offering a fresh, highly relevant take on the concept of angels and monsters, Pet proves that Akwaeke Emezi can write for younger audiences just as well as they can for adults.

Pet is, at its heart, a story about finding and eliminating evil, even—or especially—when that evil goes unnoticed by most. Jam, a selectively-nonverbal black trans girl, finds herself caught in a moral quandary when a terrifying creature climbs out of one of her mother’s paintings and into the real world. This creature, who calls itself Pet, tells Jam that it has come to hunt a monster. Jam is confused at first, because in the town of Lucille, all monsters—the abusers, the corrupt billionaires, the racist police officers, the sexual predators, and so on—have been eliminated. There should be no monsters to hunt; the mere existence of one means that the supposed safety of her home is a lie. Even more upsetting is the fact that Pet says the monster resides in the house of Jam’s best friend, Redemption. How could there be a monster in such a happy household? Should she tell Redemption about it? And how do you hunt a monster when you don’t even know what, or who, it is?

I did feel a little misled by this book’s categorization. It’s listed as YA, but it felt very much on the young side of that age bracket. Yes, the protagonist is sixteen, and there is some mention of mature topics like child abuse and rape, but the discussions tastefully avoid most details, and Jam herself feels pretty naïve for a teenager. Some of that, I’m sure, is a result of the safe and sterile society she lives in, but I couldn’t help feeling that this novel would be better suited for a late middle-grade reader.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. There were plenty of things I loved about this book. For one, the diversity is spectacular, both in its inclusivity and in its handling of intersectional identities. The fact that Jam is trans is not just casually dropped once and never mentioned again; she has multiple moments where she realizes her estrogen implant feels cold, or when she thinks about how her life could have gone so differently if her parents hadn’t allowed her to transition when she first insisted, at age three, that she was a girl, not a boy. It isn’t aggressively forced on the reader, nor is it a focal point of the book, but it is a facet of her character that isn't just there for token diversity points. This is the kind of trans rep I want to see more of: where trans characters can have stories that don’t center around their gender identity, but that also don’t ignore the ways that identity impacts them.

Racial identity is also dealt with exceptionally well; Jam’s parents speak English with distinct linguistic patterns that echo their immigrant status, and when they cook, they make traditional Caribbean dishes. Again, Emezi is able to make sure that characters’ identities are not forgotten but also not exploited. And there are casual allusions to other varied identities as well: Redemption has three parents, all married to each other, one of whom is nonbinary; and the librarian, Ube, is in a wheelchair.

Emezi’s use of language is what really allows this tale to flourish. The imagery is vivid without being excessively flowery, and Jam’s thought process is introspective without feeling self-indulgent. All the characters’ voices come across distinctly, from Pet’s tendency to use circular, repetitive language, to the dialects of Jam’s parents, to Redemption’s use of AAVE, to the distinctions Jam makes on when to sign her thoughts and when to voice them. That final element, Jam’s frequent use of sign language, brought an especially interesting element to the narrative, as she decided when and what was significant enough to necessitate the use of her voice aloud. Sometimes, things got confusing—Emezi did not have a good way to indicate the difference between Jam signing things and thinking them in her direct telepathic link to Pet—so the use of italics made it a little vague as far as who was speaking. That said, without using an outright different font to indicate thought-communication, I don’t know that they could have handled it any differently.

One more positive note: Jam’s relationships to everyone and everything around her are fascinating and fully realized, multi-dimensional connections. Her relationship with Redemption is seriously friendship goals, full of trust and the sort of instinctive understanding that comes with knowing a person for most of your life. Jam’s constant uncertainty on how much to involve him in the monster hunt, her acute awareness of how any of her choices could impact their friendship, felt incredibly real. Similarly, her relationship with her parents, including their unconditional love for each other, how readily they accepted her being trans even as a child, their willingness to talk about anything and everything, and her guilt over not telling them about her ongoing hunt, is both pleasantly simple and surprisingly nuanced. Jam’s psychic connection with Pet, and their frequent disagreement, presents an interesting exercise in self-awareness. And the odd connection Jam feels with her house, able to sense when things are wrong simply through vibrations in the floorboards, is a nice touch that enhances her intense connection with and innate understanding of the world.

However, I did get the feeling sometimes that this story was a rather predictable, parable-like tale. The plot was incredibly linear, none of it particularly surprising; even the identity of the monster, while not necessarily expected, is still not unexpected. As a narrative about the deceptive nature of evil and the blurred lines around who is truly bad and who is just misguided, about how even someone who seems so good can have dark secrets, it fulfills its function perfectly. But for a novel of two hundred pages, it could stand to have a little more substance, or some plot twists along the way.

As a whole, I highly recommend this read to anyone interested in #OwnVoices representation, the difficulty of discerning right from wrong, and the nuances of relationships. It is not a long read, nor is it perfect, but it is certainly impactful. And, in a time when so much in this world is confusing and scary, where there are monsters at every turn and even in high political offices, it is a necessary reminder that we are the ones who need to take change into our own hands.

TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNINGS: child abuse, rape, mention of racism and police brutality, graphic violence.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,763 reviews649 followers
June 27, 2022
I keep having so much trouble writing 5 star reviews. I just want to say: please read this, it's amazing.

So: please read this, it's amazing. This book is about a Black trans girl with selective mutism - sometimes she speaks, sometimes she uses sign language. It deals with morality, and with the importance to believe victims.

CWs: pedophilia/child sexual abuse (not explicit), descriptions of blood and wounds, some body horror
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,005 followers
June 8, 2020
How do you stop monsters if no one admits they exist?

Jam's mother paints a hybrid creature with goat legs, a furred and twisted torso, long gold-feathered arms with metal-clawed human hands stiched crudely on. It has ram's horns and a feathered face and a mouth that spews smoke.
The creature in the painting comes to life.
This is not the monster.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,046 reviews3,444 followers
February 2, 2022
4.5 stars

Jam is a trans teen girl who lives in a seemingly perfect world where monsters have been eradicated. There is no crime, abuse of power, or systemic injustice. Things are nice, good, happy. But when she accidentally calls a being out of one of her mother's paintings, all of that is called into question. Because Pet is here to hunt a hidden monster.

Pet uses a speculative narrative involving monsters and beings from other realms to slowly unpack familial abuse of children and why it so often goes unnoticed and unaddressed. Because sometimes we're afraid to see the signs, or refuse to believe that a monster could hide within someone we love. It's a powerful, vivid story, told in a way that demonstrates you can effectively tackle difficult topics without reveling in graphic detail. I was impressed at the layers of conversation happening in this relatively brief book. About identity, about the meaning of justice, about honesty and friendship, about love and family, and so much more.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,292 reviews2,286 followers
February 15, 2022
"Monsters don't look like anything... That's the whole point. That's the whole problem."

A fast-paced middle grade dark fantasy fiction which deals with several important topics young adults (and we adults) try to find answers for.

This is the story of Jam, her mother, Bitter who paints like someone possessed, her dad, Aloe, who's just chill pill and her best friend, Redemption; Hibiscus, Redemption's uncle and Moss, Redemption's younger brother.

The painting. The Pet. Things get pretty crazy and chaotic. You won't be able to not not read it once the Pet gets introduced!

And we are in search for a "monster" in a specific place. Jam is hiding a secret. I liked how it affected everything in the story.

The last few chapters were really difficult for me to read. It's so heartbreaking. The monsters aren't strangers. They could be in our own houses living with us. I wanted to protect the innocent child so much. It hurts when the adults do not listen when the children are hurting.

Somewhat mysterious and somehow insightful, it's an amazing read. It's heartbreaking. It's beautiful. It's clever how it's been written.

The writing is awesome, fast-paced as I have mentioned. The characters are convincing and the plot unique.

The story discusses religion, the general concept of the good and the bad, honesty and bitter truths, angels and monsters, coming of age and identity, violence, child abuse, something to learn from different people we meet, and the important relationships in our lives.

Everything wrapped up well in the end. Such an adventurous, edgy read I would say.

Some lines which made me reflect:

"Just to exist, you know, just to be. Everyone, everything deserved sometime to be."

"Nice. Not one of my concerns in this life, to be nice, to sound nice, what is nice."

"... unpleasant things must be done for unpleasant purposes out of unpleasant necessity."

"Words are never enough for a lot of things."

"You think you are right, but you are missing things and you are wrong."

"The unseen can tear your eyes open when it comes into sight, and sometimes the mind behind that tears as well."
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,694 followers
December 22, 2019
This is a short read, but don't underestimate the power of this book. Because, wow, this book will pack a punch and the climax of the book will twist your insides.

- Follows Jam, a Black and trans teen with selective mutism, who accidentally summons the monster in her mother's painting - and the monster, called Pet, is on the hunt for a monster in her best friend's house.
- Set in a town of Lucille, where 'angels' (good and righteous people) have eliminated all 'monsters' (bad people) from the town. Jam has been brought up on the idea that all bad people no longer exist. Until Pet arrives and challenges everything that she knows.
- I think this is a fantastic story about the stories that society tells themselves - that just because you are told that bad people do not exist, it doesn't mean that they don't exist. It's also about morality, being brave in the face of being told that everything that you knew was wrong, friendship, and justice.
- I've classified this as utopia/dystopia narrative, and I really liked the discourse that Emezi offers in Pet - socially relevant, eye-opening for some readers, and a great story that explores the blurriness of morality.
- However, I did feel that the story was a little heavy-handed which made it feel a little repetitive at times and thus hard to read. (I do think that was the point though - this story comes off like a twisted fairytale or a parable.) Nonetheless, I would still recommend this whole-heartedly - just make sure you check the content warnings.

Trigger/content warning:
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