Let me just start off by saying I am neither a Twilight lover or hater. From what I know (I've read about half of the first novel and have seen only the first film) some of it seems slightly ridiculous and the characters unlikable, but I don't have any tendency to swoon or throw a fit when I hear Edward's name.
In regards to The Host, I didn't have any particular incline towards this book for the past few years since it's been out. It wasn't until I went to see a movie in the threatre and saw the trailer that I became interested. The trailer depicted such a sweet, tragic love story that I decided to just take the plunge and read it.
Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Series: Book #1 of The Host (?) Series
Followed by: The Seeker (no news on release)
Genre: Teen paranormal/apocalyptic fiction
Release date: May 6, 2008
Links: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Here is the Goodreads synopsis:
"Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.
Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, The Host is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time."
I did something unusual for this book review and broke down each segment of my typical book reviews into even smaller segments (short story & long story). So if you don't want to read the long response, read the short one and you'll get the overall idea.
Pacing/My thoughts as I was reading:
Short story: Starts off slow. Quickly picks up. Stays fairly fast paced.
Long story: That first 3% of the book was difficult for me to push through. The book automatically throws you in a scene, replete with strange terminology and happenings and sometimes that can be frustrating. But once you get pass it and start to find your groundings, it gets better.
The pacing throughout the book is pretty fast. In this type of romance/paranormal adventure novel there are not many slow moments, and if those exist, they are meant to grow character connectedness. Which brings me to my next topic..
I cared for: Wanderer, Ian (most of the time)
I didn't care for: Jared, Jeb, Jaimie, the list goes on...
I was neutral to: Melanie, Doc
I personally really like Wanderer, the narrator of this story. I enjoyed her "newborn" view of humans and insight into our violent nature. I thought she was a timid, but strong character that had a lot of depth.
Melanie, however, was outshone by Wanderer. Because she was literally possessed by Wanderer in the novel, it made her own characteristics harder to show through. I only got bits and pieces, and from those pieces, I appreciated her willpower, but i didn't get enough for her to be a part of the people "I cared for" category.
Jared. Oh, Jared. How I really wanted you to be this hunky, righteous, lovable man. But you were just the skeleton of one. All telling and no showing. Having characters within a novel mention how awesome a guy is is not enough to make the reader believe he is awesome. I found myself constantly asking, "why is Melanie in love with you?"
Ian wasn't someone I immediately liked, but he grew on me quite a bit as the novel wore on.
The rest I don't particularly care to speak about individually.
Short story: disappointing
Long story: I was really hoping for some tragic romance of star-crossed lovers, but it was nothing like that. If anything, I would say the relationship was more based on lust more so than love. As I was reading, whenever I could tell it was heading in the romance direction, I felt my eyes wanting to permanently roll towards the back of my head. There were even moments where I started giggling to myself because they were awkward. Mostly, I could've just used more of a background story behind Melanie and Jared. How did they fall in love? What do they see in each other besides physical attraction? How were Melanie, Jared, and Jaimie functioning as an atypical family? Questions like that. It does mostly boil down to lack of character development on the part of both characters.
The action plot:
The action in this book serves as a major entertainment factor. It was definitely one of the more interesting parts for me. Learning about the souls and the different planets was the most fascinating. I felt unsure of how exactly everything worked at the start of the novel, but it gets more clear as you go. There was even one scene that I felt was very nicely done that gave me goosebumps when I read it.
As I read, I griped over some technical issues, but I'll just mention the first few ones that come to mind and refrain from any spoilers.
1. I don't understand the logic behind the glowing eyes. I know the souls in their original form technically glow, but in the sense of the soul vs. the body, how is the soul able to affect a person's physical/outward appearance? It feels contradictory to me.
2. Why is a surgical procedure necessary to inject a soul into a body?
3. Do the human bodies not obtain souls to begin with? Or do the imposing souls just dominate the already existing soul? Does it then become 2 souls within 1 body?
My thoughts on the end (spoiler-free, like the rest of this review):
I thought it should've ended earlier than it did. But if you like your endings all wrapped up in a bow (versus more ambiguous endings) you'll probably like it.
When you read e-books, you get accustomed to the fact that books hardly ever finish at the exact 100% mark. I've had books end as early as 92% w/ the remaining 8% composed of acknowledgements and previews for sequels/other novels. As such, it gets really difficult to ascertain while you're reading the exact moment when the book will end. By the time I was at 89-90%, I was ready for it to be over. Not because it was getting boring- because it wasn't. But because I thought that the height of attachment to this story and its characters peaked at that point. And I wanted to leave off on a good note. Stop while you're ahead, right?
Overall, I liked it. I was disappointed by the lack of depth in romance, but I felt the book had some good, well-developed characters. The action was fun and entertaining, and the writing was easy to follow. Though I had some quibbles along the way, I thought it was a very interesting concept and entertaining story.
I haven't heard much news about the sequel, but if The Host does end up becoming a trilogy, I would be interested in reading its subsequent novels.
Who do I recommend this book to?
It's one of those books that I would only recommend to a very specific audience. Even though I didn't particularly enjoy what I read of Twilight, it does have a similar balance of romance and action that fans of that series will enjoy this one as well.
If you're someone who is overly critical of every little imperfection/inconsistency, I would not recommend this book to you. It is meant as an entertaining, fun adventure/romance novel, and on most of those fronts, I think it succeeds. This is not intended for PhD students to read in order to invoke mind-numbing political discussion. Take it for what it is.
In the words of the wise John Green, "I am reminded that books are only generous to you when you're generous to them."
If you find yourself interested in the concept of this story, but are not a fan of Stephenie Meyer's style/hate Twilight too much to put on your big boy pants and read it, may I recommend another book?
Every Day tells the story of a person who wakes up every day in a new body. It strikes that same chord of the question of soul vs. body and how the two can conflict. So, if you don't think the The Host is your type of book, but the concept intrigues you, I definitely recommend this one.
I also did a full book review on it, which you can find here.
That's all for this book review!
I'm actually fairly excited for the film, in a much more relaxed way than I was for The Hunger Games. I don't feel quite as attached to the book so its easier not to worry that the film will be disastrous. But, fingers crossed, it's not. I'm secretly hoping they up the romance story!
The Host comes out March 29th. Will you be watching?