by Akwaeke Emezi


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"[A] beautiful, genre-expanding debut. . . . Pet is a nesting doll of creative possibilities." -The New York Times

The highly-anticipated, genre-defying new novel by award-winning author Akwaeke Emezi that explores themes of identity and justice. Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?

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 to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question—How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi makes their riveting and timely young adult debut with a book that asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when the society around you is in denial.

"Like [Madeleine] L'Engle, Akwaeke Emezi asks questions of good and evil and agency, all wrapped up in the terrifying and glorious spectacle of fantastical theology." -NPR

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525647072
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 23,889
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Akwaeke Emezi makes their young adult debut with Pet on the inaugural Make Me a World list. An honoree on the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" list, a long-list nominee for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and a short-list nominee for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize, Akwaeke continues to receive accolades for their adult debut, Freshwater. The autobiographical novel also received rave reviews from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times, among others, as well as starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. Their sophomore adult novel, The Death of Vivek Oji, is forthcoming in 2020 from Riverhead.

Learn more about Akwaeke at or on Twitter at @azemezi.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

There shouldn’t be any monsters left in Lucille.

The city used to have them, of course—what city didn’t? They used to be everywhere, thick in the air and offices, in the streets and in people’s own homes. They used to be the police and teachers and judges and even the mayor; yeah, the mayor used to be a monster. Lucille has a different mayor now. This mayor is an angel; the last couple of mayors have all been angels. Not like a from-­heaven, not-­quite-­real type of angel but a from-­behind-­and-­inside-­and-­in-­front-­of-­the-­revolution, therefore-­very-­real type of angel.

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. Many people thought it wasn’t enough; but the angels were only human, and it’s hard to build a new world without making people angry. You try your best, you move with compassion, you think about the big structures. No revolution is perfect. In the meantime, the angels banned firearms, not just because of the school shootings but also because of the kids who shot themselves and their families at home; the civilians who thought they could shoot people who didn’t look like them, just because they got mad or scared or whatever, and nothing would happen to them because the old law liked them better than the dead. The angels took the laws and changed them, tore down those horrible statues of rich men who’d owned people and fought to keep owning people. The angels believed and the people agreed that there was a good amount of proper and deserved shame in history and some things were just never going to be things to be proud of.

Instead, they put up other monuments. Some were statues of the dead, mostly the children whose hashtags had been turned into battle cries during the revolution. Others were giant sculptures with thousands of names carved into them, because too many people had died and if you made statues of everyone, Lucille would be filled with stone figures and there’d be no room for the alive ones. The names were of people who died when the hurricanes hit and the monsters wouldn’t evacuate the prisons or send aid, people who died when the monsters sent drones and bombs to their countries (because, as the angels pointed out, you shouldn’t use a nation as a basis to choose which deaths you mourn; nations aren’t even real), people who died because the monsters took away their health care—names and names of people and people, countless letters recording that they had been.

The citizens of Lucille put dozens of white candles at the base of the monuments, hung layers of marigold necklaces around the necks of the statues, and when they walked past, they would often fall silent for a moment and press a palm against the stone, soaking up the heat the sun had left in it, remembering the souls the stone was holding. They’d remember the marches and vigils, the shaky footage that was splashed everywhere of their deaths (a thing that wasn’t allowed anymore, that gruesome dissemination of someone’s child gasping in their final moments, bubbling air or blood or grief—the angels respected the dead and their loved ones). The people of Lucille would remember the temples that were bombed, the mosques, the acid attacks, the synagogues. Remembering was important.

Jam was born after the monsters, born and raised in Lucille, but like everyone else she remembered. It was taught in school: how the monsters had maintained power for such a long time; how the angels had removed them, making Lucille what it is today. 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? Angels could change the world, and Lucille was proof. Jam was fascinated by them, by the stories the teachers told in history class. They briefly mentioned other angels, those who weren’t human, but only to say that Lucille’s angels had been named after these other ones. When Jam asked for more information, her teachers’ eyes slid away. They mentioned religious books, but with reluctance, not wanting to influence the children. Religion had caused so many problems before the revolution, people were hesitant to talk about it now. “If you really want to know,” one of the teachers added, taking pity on Jam’s frustrated curiosity, “there’s always the library.”

Why can’t they just tell me? Jam complained to her best friend, Redemption, as they left the school. Her hands were a blur as she signed, and Redemption smiled at her annoyance. It was the last day of classes before summer break, and while he was excited to do nothing for the next several weeks except train, Jam was—as always—on some hunt for information.

“You’re giving yourself homework,” he pointed out.

Aren’t you curious? she replied. Who the old angels were, if they weren’t human?

“If they were even real, you mean.” Redemption adjusted the strap of his backpack. “You know that’s what a lot of religion was, right? Just made-up things used to scare people so they could control us better.”

Jam frowned. Maybe, she said, but I still wanna know.

Redemption threw an arm around her. “And you wouldn’t be you if you didn’t,” he laughed. “I gotta go pick up the lil bro from his class and walk him home, but let me know what you find out, okay?”

Okay. She hugged him goodbye. Give Moss a kiss for me.

He scoffed. “I’ll try, but that boy thinks he grown now.”

Too grown for kisses??

“That’s what I said.” Redemption threw up his hands as he headed off. “Talk soon, love you!”

Love you! Jam waved goodbye and watched him break into a jog, his body moving with an easy grace, then she went to the library to look up pictures of angels.

The librarian was a tall, dark-skinned man who whizzed around the marble floors in his wheelchair. His name was Ube, and Jam had known him since she was a toddler pawing through picture books. She loved being in the library, the almost sacred silence you could find there, the way it felt like another home. Ube smiled at her when she walked in, and Jam took an index card from his counter, writing her question about angels down on it. She slid it over to Ube, and he grunted as he read it, nodding his head, then he wrote some reference numbers underneath her question and slid the card back to her. They didn’t need to talk, which was perfect.

It took her fifteen minutes to find the old pictures, printed on thin, flaky paper and nestled between heavy book covers. Even though Ube hadn’t said she should, Jam considered pulling on the white gloves nestled in the reading desk drawers to use in looking through the books, they seemed that old. But they weren’t in the protected section, so she figured it was fine to run her bare fingers over the smooth and fragile paper. The room she was in was quiet, with large windows vaulting up the walls and domed skylights pouring in late-­afternoon sun. Jam sat for a few minutes with her fingers on the images, staring down, turning a page and staring at the next one. They were strong and confusing pictures. Eventually she closed and stacked the books, then lugged them to the checkout counter.

Ube raised a thick black eyebrow at her. “All of these?” he asked. His voice sounded unreal, deep and velvet, something that should live only in a radio because it didn’t make sense outside in normal air.

Jam nodded.

“You gotta be careful with them, you know? They’re mad old.”

She nodded again, and Ube looked at her for a moment, then smiled, shaking his head.

“You right, you a careful girl. Always seen it.” He scanned the books as he spoke. “You treat the books gentle, like they flowers or something.”

She blushed.

“Don’t be shy about it, now. Books are important.” He stamped them for her. “You need a bag, baby?”

Jam shook her head.

“All right, now. Two weeks, remember?”

She hefted the books onto her hip, nodded, and left. They were a weight straining against her arm until she got home, and she took them straight to her mother’s studio. Jam’s mother had been born when there were monsters, and Jam’s grandmother had come from the islands, a woman entirely too gentle for that time. It had hurt her too much to be alive then, hurt even more to give birth to Jam’s mother, whose existence was the result of a monster’s monstering. This grandmother had died soon after the birth, but not before naming Jam’s mother Bitter. No one had argued with the dying woman.

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Pet 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
The-Broke-Book-Bank 7 days ago
-LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE -LOVE ALL OF IT, CHARACTERS, SETTING, WORLD BUILDING, PACING, ENDING, ETC ETC -UNIQUE AF, UNLIKE ANYTHING YOU'VE EVER READ -WRITING IS AMAZING -I haven't read Emezi's Freshwater, but I will and will continue with her new releases -Hells yes I would let my 12 year old to read this. I'd love it if she did! -There is no vigilante justice. It doesn't advocate vigilante justice. It actively argues AGAINST IT. Anyone who thinks that clearly skimmed or didn't get it.
Earth Christopher 4 months ago
This was a great read. I would love to see a the author's picture of PET to see if my mental image is up to snuff! Love the relationship between Jam and Redemption. So solid and trusting #friendshipgoalsBook flowed from beginning to end. Instant fan, awaiting more.....
Bookyogi 6 months ago
Wow. This fantasy book is full of symbolism addressing hard issues. Though it is considered young adult, I recommend reading it first as the triggers can be tough for some. I recommend listening to the audiobook. It is read with the deep and mesmerizing of Christopher Meyers - perfect for Pet.
Denice_L 11 months ago
An enlightening story that parents can use to start some needed conversations about subjects that don't exist because no one talks about them. When a young girl and her friend discover a can't be a monster because monsters don't exist...they must learn how to identify problems and use their wits to solve them. A really great story full of symbolism that hopefully will help young readers face difficulties head on.
MountainChickenLady 12 months ago
Pet is a monster created to hunt monsters. Or rather, Pet looks like a monster, but the real monsters are humans, humans that do evil. Jam has been born into a town that has no monsters. All the monsters, the evil people, have been spotted and driven out, so there is no need to hunt for them anymore. Except there are still monsters, whether people believe there are or not. This novel is trying to show that evil can lurk and fester if we aren't aware of it. Most of the book is Jam trying to tell Pet that the monsters are all gone, no need to look, everything is fine, and Pet telling her it doesn't matter what she believes. The visuals of this book are good, but the story is painfully slow. I love Pet, as a character, but a lot of time is spent just discussing what needed to be done. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Caroldaz More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, haunting, captivating, with a touch of magic and a touch of fantasy, just brilliant! The message throughout this story is so timely. The town of Lucille is sure it is rid of the monsters, corrupt politicians, child abusers, murderers and other monsters. Jam, a young transgirl, lives with her loving parents. She and her best friend Redemption, have grown up believing there are no more monsters. Jam’s mother, Bitter, paints a picture which comes alive and presents itself to Jam. It, Pet, tells her that there is a monster in Redemption’s house and Pet is here to hunt it. A wonderful story which will stay with you for some time. This book has made it to my ‘best ever’ book list. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Caroldaz More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, haunting, captivating, with a touch of magic and a touch of fantasy, just brilliant! The message throughout this story is so timely. The town of Lucille is sure it is rid of the monsters, corrupt politicians, child abusers, murderers and other monsters. Jam, a young transgirl, lives with her loving parents. She and her best friend Redemption, have grown up believing there are no more monsters. Jam’s mother, Bitter, paints a picture which comes alive and presents itself to Jam. It, Pet, tells her that there is a monster in Redemption’s house and Pet is here to hunt it. A wonderful story which will stay with you for some time. This book has made it to my ‘best ever’ book list. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Meag More than 1 year ago
This felt like a parable with a twist - it had religious themes of angels, good vs. evil, and trusting in unseen powers, but there were also a lot of aspects that made if feel fresher and more contemporary than your typical spiritual tale. For one, the main character is a transgender black girl named Jam, and I just loved her. Her empathy and bravery combine to make her such a memorable heroine in the story. The writing was also so well done - I could see a lot of teen readers flying through this to find out what happens, but they will also be consuming some really beautiful words about love, not turning a blind eye to "monsters," and speaking up for victims of violence and hate. In a world where so many people experience evils that aren't acknowledged or spoken about, this book is so important. It's slim in size but manages to say so much.
LHill2110 More than 1 year ago
Writing: 5/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters: 4.5/5 There are no Monsters left in the town of Lucille. Long ago, in a time not often spoken about, the Angels rid the town of Monsters and left the inhabitants with a peaceful existence. But when Jam’s mother, Bitter, paints a picture that comes alive when accidentally touched with Jam’s blood, it appears that perhaps not all of the Monsters in Lucille are gone after all. It appears that “Pet” has come hunting a Monster, and it is closer than anyone would like… The book’s description did not prepare me at all for the vibrant, powerful, writing. It is vivid and visceral — the kind where every phrase says far more than its constituent words would suggest. Strong themes of righteous vengeance against evil combined with realistic and subtle explanations of what people do. “Monster” is the epithet for people who do bad things, but “Angels” and “Monsters” aren’t pretty or ugly like the pictures in a book: “It’s all just people, doing hard things or doing bad things. But is all just people, our people.” The plot is actually a bit simplistic (aimed at a middle school audience), but the characters, writing, and themes make it impossible to put down. Emezi is going right on my “follow” list. Some of my favorite quotes: “Jam always felt lucky when she stood in the path of her father’s joy.” “Everyone, everything deserved some time to be. To figure out what they were. Even a painting. Bitter finishing it was just her telling it what she thought it was, or what she’d seen it as. It hadn’t decided for itself yet.” “You humans and your binaries, Pet said. It is not a good thing or a bad thing. It is just a thing.” “It built a stone of guilt in her chest, and Jam added it to the pile that had been forming there since she told Pet to stay.” “That’s precisely the point, little girl. Your knowing, you think it gives you clarity, sight that pierces. It can be a cloud, a thing that obscures.” “Jam nodded, even though the fear was still a tangled necklace in her stomach, heavy and iron.” “The creature growled low in its throat and changed its body language, small shifts that bled naked menace into the room.” “But Jam could still feel the anxiety and fear like a spilled sourness soaked up by the floor, circulating through the house.” “Not one of my concerns in this life, to be nice, to sound nice, what is nice.” “Your world is unpleasant, your truths are unpleasant, the hunt is unpleasant.”
Isabelle Wagner More than 1 year ago
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi was not at all what I expected even after I reread the description right before I read the book. I read this whole in one day because even though I had somewhat mixed feelings about it, I still could not wait to find out what happens. Emezi built a world that seems so socially relevant right now, a utopia that many want to build. But instead of everything being perfect and safe, she shows what happens when people put blind trust in those who are supposed to be their saviors - their angels. While I enjoy the representation in this book, it also felt like the author shoved as many different identities as possible into just two families. The story also felt a little rushed to me. Overall though, I think this is a very socially relevant book that combines a dystopian-ish utopia with inclusivity and some magical elements that represent important real-world issues. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Kasey_Baril More than 1 year ago
**Disclaimer: I was given an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.* "Pet" is short, but such a powerful and important read. The beginning is a bit confusing with the names of the different characters in Jam's life (Bitter, Redemption, Aloe, Ube, Hibiscus, Moss, Glass, Malachite...), but the story definitely takes a turn shortly afterwards. It's definitely a thought-provoking story about who/what is really a monster. The one thing that really bugged me, but is an easy fix, is the internal dialogues. Sometimes the dialogue is italicized and sometimes it isn't??? I didn't understand why.
Jill-Elizabeth_dot_com More than 1 year ago
What an incredible story this was! I am on a binge of Nigerian-authored stories lately; there seems to be a lyricism to the storytelling style that permeates even though the individual authors' writings are very different. This is a marvelous story. I've seen some reviews comment on the audience, the simplicity, and the messaging. I don't often pay attention to the "intended" audience; if I'm intrigued by a cover/blurb/author, I'll read the book regardless of who it is meant for, unless I find myself getting lost (in a bad way) in that intent. I found this story to flow beautifully. There is a simplicity here, but it's a deceptive one - the messages are huge and exceptionally timely and their straightforward presentation is a big part of what made them so powerful to me. This is a very thinly-veiled allegory for the modern world and I think the thinness of the veil is meant to emphasize, rather than minimize, that import. I occasionally struggled with the shifting vernacular in this particular one - the narration is told in a western-type voice, whereas the dialogue uses expressions and syntax that are distinctly different and have the flow of West Africa in their veins. It can be jarring to shift back and forth in writing style like this; there were a few times in the beginning where it made the flow feel jumpy-bumpy and I'd have to work to maintain the feel of the story. After a little while though, the exceptional storytelling style carried the day and I fell into the rhythm and flow of the shifting voices and they felt completely organic by the end of the book. Emezi is DEFINITELY on my To Be Watched list now. I have already requested Freshwater from my library. She is an epic talent and a voice to be reckoned with... Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my obligation-free review copy.
CaptainsQuarters More than 1 year ago
Ahoy there mateys!  I received this young adult fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I wanted to read this book because of the tagline "How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?"  I thought this would be fun.  Instead, this book was heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and vitally important.  Because this book focuses on the real monsters in our own world hiding behind the pleasant masks and titles and opinions of others. It asks hard questions, has hard answers, and still provides hope.  Set in a future utopia called Lucille, the children have been told that there are no longer monsters.  There are no police, no politicians, no jails, no uneven distribution of wealth, or even much fear.  Diversity is welcomed.  The protagonist, Jam, is black, trans, and has selective mutism.  Families come in all shapes and sizes.  Parents actively care about and love their children.  Society at large believes in hope and comfort.  The adults made hard, horrible choices so that their children can grow up in a better world. The problem with the society lies in the fact that in order to protect their children, the adults have chosen to ignore reality.  Selective education is in play.  Children supposedly don't need the harsh truths of the past.  The information isn't hidden, it just isn't taught and children are encouraged not to go looking.  The world is better now.  This book showcases that when people chose to ignore the problems of the world and live in a bubble of their making, it allows evil more freedom to silently hurt without repurcusion.  Parents may want to shield their children but unfortunately humans are flawed and bad things can and will happen in the world. For me, the highlight of this book seems to be the message that teens can be a force for change and have a responsibility to stand up for each other and care about the world around them - good and bad.  I thought the author did an especially good job showcasing both positive future changes and the idea that people cannot grow too complacent or stagnant. Part of this is reflected in how the story is set up.  There is a blend of magic which awes but cannot fix and mixed with the very harsh truths.  The "pet" referenced in the title is a magic being that comes out of a portal in a painting to hunt the evildoer.  His very existence challenges societal truths about belief.  It is a hard lesson for Jam who has to face her fears and decide what justice means to her.  Because after all, whatever happens, the victim and those around them will be changed and the hurt cannot be undone. The highlights of this book were the diversity and Jam's relationships.  I adored how the evil looking pet challenges and changes Jam's perceptions even as I was sympathetic to Jam's struggles.  Also Jam's relationship with her best friend, Redemption, was beautiful.  This was a book with no romance between the teens and postive adult relationships.  I appreciated that. The only minor flaw for me is that the child abuse in this book is glossed over in terms of the symptoms other than bruises.  I understand why this was done and am sympathetic to younger readers' sensibilities.  But I do wonder if there was a message lost to possible abuse sufferers in terms of identifying abuse in their own lives.  I don't have a good answer for this question though. This is a powerful book packed into a shorter length.  We need more books like this. Arrr!