PET by Awaeke Emezi

PET is the second novel by non-binary writer, Akwaeke Emezi and was published in 2019 by Faber & Faber Ltd. This outspoken and surrealist young-adult novel has received a string of prestigious nominations, including the National Book Award nominee for Young People’s literature in 2019.

In Emezi’s gravity-defying book, Jam is transgender schoolgirl, who lives in a place called Lucille where monsters once lived and ruled with intolerance. The book is set many years after this in a utopian-like equal society, where children like Jam are taught that monsters no longer exist. Then one day, Jam accidentally brings to life a piece of artwork, painted by her mother. It has come to her realm to hunt a monster and the two form an unlikely friendship, a result of their shared endeavour.

I was undoubtedly drawn to the LGBTQ rep in PET because as a community, these unique perspectives are often hard to find without putting in effort. It is usually these requisite narratives that end up being pushed into the obscure crevices of the fiction industry, making it harder for queer and trans voices to be truly heard by the many. But as well as this, I was intrigued by the alternative premise.

PET felt allegorical and surreal, drawing important parallels between a former world ruled by monsters and most modern-day societies, rife with all the isms of bigotry and bias.

I enjoyed reading PET for many reasons, such as the generally likeable characters i.e. Jam’s doting parents and her best friend, Redemption, the cultural references to food and dress, the poly amorous representation and Emezi’s ability to make even a fearsome creature with murderous intent, seem like an affable character.

The ending felt too swift for my liking and seemed only to sum things up in cursory detail, but overall I was completely on board with the unusual uniqueness of the novel, which made it easy for me to suspend my disbelief on the matter of living pieces of art and cross-dimensional portals.

PET is a deeply thoughtful, uplifting story that bravely imagines a world of unconditional acceptance, whilst also exploring the harm that can result from forgetting the past, however troubled.

“But forgetting is dangerous. Forgetting is how the monsters come back.”

PET by Akwaeke Emezi – pg. 20

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