THe cover of the book Pet, which shows a young black girl.


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Book Review

In Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi, a creature known as Pet comes to life from a painting. When it tells a transgender girl named Jam that her friend is in danger, she must discern whether the indignant Pet is good or evil.

Plot Summary

Jam, a transgender, Black teen, lives in a future society of relative peace. Guns, religion and prejudices have been abolished. Like other school children, Jam and her best friend, Redemption, are taught there used to be monsters who did cruel things in their town of Lucille. The society’s heroic people, known as “angels,” banished them all. Today, the town is safe.

Jam begins to wonder about real angels, the kind in old religious books. About this time, her artist mother, Bitter, creates a painting of a hideous creature. Jam doesn’t realize Bitter has embedded razor blades in the canvas. When Jam touches it, she gets cut. Her blood brings the creature to life. It says to call it Pet.

Jam’s parents are disturbed, but not surprised, when they see Pet. This isn’t the first time one of Bitter’s paintings has come to life. They urge Jam to send the creature back. Since it arrived through the shedding of Jam’s blood, only she can return it to the canvas. Jam prepares to do as they’ve said, but Pet urges her to think it through first. Pet says there is a monster living in Redemption’s house. Pet has come to this world to hunt it. Jam wants to return Pet to the canvas, but she wonders what will happen if Pet is telling the truth and Redemption is really in danger.

Jam makes her parents think she has sent Pet away. Pet urges her to go to Redemption’s house and look for things she hasn’t seen before. All she sees is his happy family, including Redemption’s three parents; his little brother, Moss; and aunts and uncles. When Redemption sees Pet for himself, he is awed and wants to help Pet and Jam find the monster.

Jam continues to wonder if the wrathful Pet can be trusted. She doesn’t want to believe there is anything wrong with Redemption’s family, whom she’s known most of her life. Redemption questions Moss. Redemption is shocked to learn Uncle Hibiscus, his beloved mentor, has been hurting and maybe molesting the little boy. Jam and Redemption corner Hibiscus, and he confesses what he’s done.

Filled with righteous indignation, Pet exacts supernatural revenge on the man, blinding and traumatizing him. Jam realizes Pet is an angel, the real kind.

The town learns to admit that monsters still exist and that they can’t fight evil if they won’t acknowledge it is real.

Christian Beliefs

None, though spiritual ideas and allusions fill the story. See “Other Beliefs” below.

Other Belief Systems

Religion isn’t part of Lucille’s society anymore because it has caused so many problems in the past. Some believe religion was created to control people. When Jam becomes curious about angels—the kind her town heroes were named for—she goes to the library and researches them.

The books she finds include pictures of frightening beings. She notes that these angels look more like monsters. Her mom tells her angels aren’t pretty pictures in old holy books, they are just people. She says angels, like their town heroes, sometimes had to do dark and underhanded things in order to get rid of monsters.

Pet, a real angel, is frightening to behold. He’s hungry to get revenge on the monster.

Authority Roles

Bitter and Aloe, Jam’s parents, aid and support her in her desire to change her gender. They try to convince her to send Pet away so they can avoid dealing with the reality of evil. Uncle Hibiscus misuses his authority by abusing Moss and deceiving the family.

Profanity & Violence

Profanities appear frequently and include f- and s-words, as well as “d–n.” Uncle Hibiscus physically abuses Redemption’s younger brother. Sexual abuse is implied but not mentioned in detail. Pet punishes Hibiscus emotionally and removes his eyes. Bitter was conceived when a monster raped her mother.

Sexual Content

When Jam was a preschool boy, he told his parents he was a girl. They readily assisted in getting Jam hormone treatments and, eventually, surgery so Jam could transition to become a transgendered woman.

Redemption has three parents, one of which is non-binary and is referred to using the pronoun “they.” The narrator says the citizens of Lucille are more tolerant of people altering their gender since the monsters were exterminated.

Discussion Topics


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