Cover image for Pet

1st ed.
Physical Description:
204 pages ; 22 cm.
There are no monsters anymore. In the city of Lucille, Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their lives. Then 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. Pet has come to hunt a monster-- and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?


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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

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

Carnegie Medal--nominee Emezi (Freshwater for adults) makes their young adult debut in this story of a transgender, selectively nonverbal girl named Jam, and the monster that finds its way into their universe. Jam's hometown, Lucille, is portrayed as a utopia--a world that is post-bigotry and -violence, where "angels" named after those in religious texts have eradicated "monsters." But after Jam accidently bleeds onto her artist mother's painting, the image--a figure with ram's horns, metallic feathers, and metal claws--pulls itself out of the canvas. Pet, as it tells Jam to call it, has come to her realm to hunt a human monster----one that threatens peace in the home of Jam's best friend, Redemption. Together, Jam, Pet, and Redemption embark on a quest to discover the crime and vanquish the monster. Jam's language is alternatingly voiced and signed, the latter conveyed in italic text, and Igbo phrases pepper the family's loving interactions. Emezi's direct but tacit story of injustice, unconditional acceptance, and the evil perpetuated by humankind forms a compelling, nuanced tale that fans of speculative horror will quickly devour. Ages 12--up. Agent: Jacqueline Ko, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)

Horn Book Review

A haunting and poetic work of speculative fiction-the first for young readers by adult author Emezi. Jam, the adolescent protagonist, is a transgender hearing person who communicates selectively, using both sign language and vocal speech. She was born after a revolution in which human (and some non-human) "angels" rid her now-utopian town of monsters (monster being a catch-all term for oppressors and manifestations of evil). When Jam trips over a painting made by her artist mother, she is cut with blades embedded in the work. Jam's blood hits the canvas, and the grotesque figure her mother created (described as having goat legs, a twisted torso, feathers, horns, and human hands) churns to life. The creature's name is Pet, and it has come to hunt a monster. Worse yet, this monster is said to live in the house of Jam's best friend, Redemption. The plot moves steadily as Jam investigates Pet's claims, and the story intensifies to a startling climax. The lyrical, philosophical text includes cultural markers from the African diaspora (Jam's caregivers lovingly use the French term of endearment "doux-doux"; she listens to soca music while styling her hair in twists). Its theme of deeply examining self-proclaimed bias- or harm-free spaces has contemporary relevance, yet the engrossing, open-ended narrative (with somewhat nebulous world-building) carries a universality separate from any specific place or time. A thoughtful, indelible story about truth, justice, and remembering: "Forgetting is how the monsters come back." Elisa Gall November/December 2019 p.86(c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

The debut title from Christopher Myers' imprint, Make Me a World, tells the story of a girl named Jam who lives in a world without evil or so she's told. In the town of Lucille, monsters were overcome in a long-past revolution, so Jam is more than a little surprised when Pet, a creature her mom paints, comes to life and declares that he has come to hunt a monster and he needs her help. Though a YA novel, this will appeal to readers across age ranges. Younger readers will enjoy the fantastical story line itself, while older readers will be able to look more deeply into its themes and pull out the social commentary on the hidden evils of our world that Emezi creatively weaves into the story. Just like Pet gently encourages Jam to see things unseen, to not be afraid, and to not forget, this book encourages its readers to do the same. Because as Jam notes, Yes, people forget. But forgetting is dangerous. Forgetting is how the monsters come back. --Florence Simmons Copyright 2019 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up--The only world Jam has ever known is that of Lucille, a town where the angels have ostensibly banished the monsters and dismantled the structures that allowed monsters and monstrous deeds to pervade. Lucille is a post-prison, post--school shooting, post--police brutality society. A society where someone like Jam, a selectively mute transgender teen, can live with complete acceptance, support, and love. Still, she can feel the hard truths of the world, can sense them in the air, hear them in words unsaid. When Jam steals into her mother Bitter's painting studio and unleashes Pet, a winged, horned, eyeless creature and monster hunter, from one of the paintings and into their world, life as she's known it begins to dissolve. Jam must confront the harsh realities of her world as she tentatively partners with Pet and ventures forward to avenge a wrong not yet discovered. This is a heart-stirring atmospheric page-turner, a terrific and terrible yet quiet adventure. Emezi spins a tale that defies categorization as strikingly as their characters, forcing readers to deeply rethink assumptions about identity, family structure, and justice. VERDICT A riveting and important read that couldn't be more well timed to our society's struggles with its own monsters.--Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ

Kirkus Review

Teenager Jam unwittingly animates her mother's painting, summoning a being through a cross-dimensional portal.When Pet, giant and grotesque, bursts into her life one night, Jam learns it has emerged to hunt and needs the help of a human who can go places it cannot. Through their telekinetic connection, Jam learns that though all the monsters were thought to have been purged by the angels, one still roams the house of her best friend, Redemption, and Jam must uncover it. There's a curious vagueness as to the nature of the banished monsters' crimes, and it takes a few chapters to settle into Emezi's (Freshwater, 2018) YA debut, set in an unspecified American town where people are united under the creed: "We are each other's harvest. We are each other's business. We are each other's magnitude and bond," taken from Gwendolyn Brooks' ode to Paul Robeson. However, their lush imagery and prose coupled with nuanced inclusion of African diasporic languages and peoples creates space for individuals to broadly love and live. Jam's parents strongly affirm and celebrate her trans identity, and Redemption's three parents are dedicated and caring, giving Jam a second, albeit more chaotic, home. Still, Emezi's timely and critical point, "monsters don't look like anything," encourages our steady vigilance to recognize and identify them even in the most idyllic of settings.This soaring novel shoots for the stars and explodes the sky with its bold brilliance. (Fantasy. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Transgender teen Jam has grown up in utopian Lucille, where everyone is accepted and bad things don't exist, with her artist mom and easygoing dad. Jam is selectively mute and communicates mostly by sign language with her family and friend Redemption. But her gentle world changes when she accidentally bleeds onto one of her mother's canvases, and a creature is born out of the blood. The beast, called Pet, informs Jam that he is there to hunt a human monster that exists in Redemption's house. Jam helps Pet identify and capture the monster, and in the process, change idyllic Lucille forever. This work of speculative fiction is a National Book Award finalist and the first to be published in Christopher Myers's new imprint, Make Me a World, and so it seems fitting that Myers himself narrates the book. Myers handles the narration with ease, creating an atmospheric setting. Pet is performed in a deep voice, sometimes quietly, and at other times aggressively with sinister inflections. The more intense parts of the story--when the hunted monster and his crimes are identified--are properly expressed through his faster pacing and increasingly emotional tone. VERDICT This title will have plenty of crossover appeal; younger listeners may respond to the fantasy/horror aspect of the story, while more mature or thoughtful listeners will be drawn to the allegorical aspects of the story, with its themes of good vs. evil, bravery, trust, vengeance, and unconditional acceptance.--Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, NC



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. Excerpted from Pet by Akwaeke Emezi All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.