Things I loved about PET, by Akwaeke Emezi:
The prose. Both the dialogue and the prose are heavily influenced by West African and Southern US grammars and vocabularies, which makes every sentence feel unexpected and creative to my PNW brain. The prose is also bright, airy, vivid, and easy to read while being beautiful and revelatory. I actually think the prose might be the strongest thing about this book.
The setting. Lucille, a city without monsters, is... damn. Utopias are hard to write. Even this one doesn't quite make it, because I felt myself asking the whole time: if justice restores and heals, where are all the EX-monsters? The book draws a distinction between 'there aren't any monsters in Lucille' and 'there aren't any FREE monsters in Lucille' but I still loved the edge of creepiness that left me wary of this utopian society at the same time as I was loving the sheer functionality of its tech, its libraries, its disabled people who were part of everyday life.
The characters. I love their names (another West-African influenced cultural element that I'm seeing some reviewers misunderstand) and their artistic souls and the way they touch each other with kindness and the parents teach their kids how to resolve conflicts without losing friendships and folks learn sign to communicate just because they want to talk. I love Jam's parents, with their so-human flaws and weirdness and creativity. Jam is my favorite child and I would fight a bear for her.
Pet. I don't want to spoil anything but I will say that Pet is the exact manifestation of something I used to believe in with all my heart, a long time ago, and seeing him in a book makes me feel some kind of way.
The ending. There's a lot of people on Goodreads saying it's way too intense for middle grade, but uh. Have you ever met a middle grade kid who has had some shit happen to them? They need someone to take justice seriously on their behalf, and oh my god this book does that. On screen, it does that.
The way this book takes justice seriously. We talk a lot these days about getting called out, getting canceled, but we all know there is no justice anywhere. There is punishment, and there is impunity, and those things are doled out based on your station in life, not on what you've done. We need to have a conversation about how to fix this, and PET does that in a middle grade mystery. I'm not sure we get all the answers we need, I don't think this is the final word, but damn. This is so good.