Hello, peeps! Today, I'm blogging a review of an ARC I received -- Stephenie Meyer's THE HOST (Little, Brown, May 2008).
THE HOST is Stephenie Meyer's first foray into the adult world, a futuristic novel set on Earth after a massive alien invasion. These aliens take over the bodies of humans (called "hosts"), but leave their minds intact.
Wanderer is the alien who has been implanted in Melanie Stryder's body. And while this alien is thrilled to experience earth for the first time (she's been to several other planets, such as the See Weeds), it's with great dismay and shock that she realizes Melanie hasn't evacuated the body--she's still in there, and she's not willing to leave.
Overwhelmed by Melanie's memories and her desperation to find her still-human family, who are hidden somewhere out in the desert, Wanderer finds herself also longing for these people--especially Jared, the love of Melanie's life. Together, they form an uneasy alliance and flee threatening outside forces, heading into the deadly desert to find these people.
The back cover of the ARC describes this story as "what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies." Both Melanie and Wanderer (nicknamed Wanda) are in love with the same man, causing tension and conflict between them as they war for control over both Melanie's body and Jared's love and attention.
I found the first part of this very large book slow to start (the novel weighs in at almost 650 pages). Ms. Meyer takes her time setting up the characters' feelings, histories, and stories. She lets the tale unfold at a leisurely pace, showing Wanderer's acclimation to Melanie's body, her realization that Melanie is still in there and is unwilling to let go, and Wanderer's eventual decision to pursue Melanie's family.
Eventually, though, THE HOST picks up and captures your attention--there aren't a lot of plot elements in here, and there are relatively few scenes/locales, but the characters' emotions are gripping and compelling to read as they interact with each other. Ms. Meyer has a talent for writing strong, gritty, fascinating characters who etch themselves into your mind, and I found myself turning page after page, unable to put the book down.
Because Ms. Meyer laid the groundwork so thoroughly by digging deeply into her characters, showing their pasts and how they evolve over the course of the story, you feel every emotion across the spectrum--severe hatred, selfless love, intense fear. Both Wanda's and Melanie's enraptured love of Jared illuminates their struggles and conflicts as they learn to care about each other, and I couldn't flip the pages fast enough to find out what would happen. The climax was unbelievably gut-wrenching for me to read (yes, I actually cried while reading it, it had sucked me in that deeply).
Even though the last part of the novel felt a little anti-climactic in comparison to such a climax, I'd still highly recommend THE HOST. A warning, though, to those expecting another story like the TWILIGHT series: this is a very different kind of tale. But if you accept it at face value for what it is instead of trying to compare it to her young adult material, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. For me, it was definitely worth the time.