This book gets: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5
The Host, by Stephenie Meyer – “Wait, wait, Kiersi is reviewing a Stephenie Meyer book, favorably?” You might ask, disbelieving. You might wonder, having seen my tweets about the disgusting co-dependent, abusive relationships glorified in Twilight, or about how Bella’s story is ultimately a tragedy, how this might come to be. What has happened to this predictable reviewer? What has been done with her?
But I can assure you I am cognizant, that I have not been invaded by a very kind, reasonable alien, and my eyes are still a perfectly normal (perhaps not) shade of dark brown. And I can also assure you that The Host is a great book.
It’s not always that way. Meyer falls into the Deborah Harkness trap with this 600-page volume of eating and drinking and bathing and all kinds of things that really, in the end, should have been left out. But unlike those bothersome A Discovery of Witches books, Meyer keeps the tempo fast and high and ultimately, the reward is great enough to warrant the wind-up. It’s almost as if the reward, the ending, would not be so marvelous had we not had to slog through the underground caverns with Wanderer, our alien narrator; if we had not had to sit through the slow shift of each character in the story from antagonist to friend.
Meyer’s first few romance scenes—memories that our alien Wanderer experiences through her host, Melanie—are cheesy, at best. I have this feeling that she was still shrugging off the Twilight series like a misfitting sweater. Later I believed every word she wrote about Wanderer’s strange, second-hand love for Melanie’s old flame, Jared; her fiercely maternal love for Melanie’s younger brother, Jaime; and even her memories of the peculiar but vividly-imagined worlds that the souls—the creatures that inhabit human hosts—have previously colonized.
Though Wanderer is so strange to us, the readers (being an alien and all) and Melanie so much more familiar (being a human, and having understandable human emotions), I came to see the world easily through Wanderer’s eyes, and to see what human culture would be like to an extraterrestrial mind. And though in some ways the souls are like a page from an Animorphs book, they are so distinct and different and completely thought out that I almost believe they exist.
The Host is a narrative woven by a deft hand, that undulates through tears and joy to a very satisfying finish. My hat is off to you, Stephenie Meyer. Thanks for the real but ultimately likable male characters, and the female characters with distinct personalities and dreams and flaws. For characters that feel like real people, even if they feel flat at first, but we come to love them anyway.
I hope you’ll give us another one.