This is a special post because the first review I’ve ever written has been about “The Host“. But this is not the only reason why this story is so special to me – it also touches a theme that I like very much: humanity.
If you’ve followed my reviews you might know that this theme is the closest to my heart, that I loved a few ‘similar’ books over the time and I screamed my big-deep-enormous love for them, for everyone to hear (or well.. typed it for everyone to see).
Also, I need to mention that I think this is going to be a very long post, filled with all my love for the book, with the good and the not so good, with the things that made me cry and the ones that made me laugh.
If you didn’t read the book you might press the ‘back’ button and skip this post as it contains quite some SPOILERS, if you didn’t like the story you might do just the same, as I am not willing to convince anyone of the beauty of the story, I just need to take it all out. A few years of love for this story – they are all in this post, prepare yourself! Here we go…
I don’t usually read a book more than once – but there are some very special books that I need to come back to every now and then, because they seem real to me, because I connect with them like with no other (they are also my favorite books so I don’t need to explain more).
Like I said before in my former review, what I loved the most about this book was the love – the most heartbreaking, beautiful feeling of them all. It doesn’t differentiate us from other beings, but it defines us, it sculpts our personality.
It’s this need we have to give and receive love, to fight and protect in the name of love.
Also there was another subject that I loved to pieces: survival. The way it shaped the humans (the resistance), the way it changed Wanda, the way it tied them all, the way it turned despair into hope. Believing that they were the last humans on the face of the Earth gave them the force to fight better, to be more invisible, to keep together, and overcome all that life can throw their way.
I’ve seen so many people complain that there was not much happening. I don’t think that we had different copies, but I do think that we read the story differently – don’t worry if we don’t feel the same it’s part of the reading charm.
Anyways I felt like a lot was happening, even in the beginning and I devoured every information I got about the souls, the resistance, Mel’s memories, Wanda’s struggle, the Seeker annoying the hell out of me, the constant inner fight between ‘what’s right’ and ‘what’s wrong’ that was making me want to read faster to see how the relationship between Wanda and Mel will change, and so on, and so on..
By the time they left civilization behind I was already caring deeply for both of them and I felt in my heart the need to find Jamie and Jared. Somehow I started to care so much for their safety, I wanted so much for them to be found, I hoped so badly that the suicidal mission of walking all over the desert would end well, you can’t even imagine.
You see, I can’t make myself not cry a bit at the scene when the girls are waiting for the coyotes to ‘come and make it quick’. Their despair is so palpable, and in that moment also their friendship is so strong – after a lot of struggle and fight they got to rely on each other, to care one for the other, they were together in life and death – and this was only the beginning of their journey.
Others complained about the violence in the book – this might be the reason why the book is rated for adults – but this is not a fairytale about shiny crystal slippers, this is a story about survival, about a war that had been already lost, about enemies that annihilate each other in order to keep going, so I would never have expected the resistance to put a red carpet in front of our alien girl and be happy that they have found her, and to be honest I am pretty sure that their reaction was pretty ‘tamed’ anyways (humans are capable of so much more cruelty, unfortunately).
What I appreciated about the author is how she took the time to show us the change in every character slowly. We were met with a strong aggressivity and it took a lot of time for the characters to really open their minds, their heart and realize that deep down humanity means a lot more than just ‘being human’ by birth.
Jeb took the time to teach his ‘guests’ a lesson that many of us should learn in this lifetime – that no matter how hard it is, no matter how much we lose, we need to keep strong and never lose ourselves. Because what are we without the humanity that should define us?
There were so many moments that kept me on the edge of my seat, there were many moments that broke my heart, there were many times when I felt like crying but there were so many others when I hoped and I smiled, when I felt friendship growing and hate melting away.. People changed, Wanda changed, I am not sure how much Melanie changed because she had a passive role (except for when she took control and did a few very stupid mistakes) but they started to show a better side of themselves and there were very few characters that didn’t leave an impression on me.
“This place was truly the highest and the lowest of all worlds – the most beautiful senses, the most exquisite emotions.. the most malevolent desires, the darkest deeds. Perhaps it was meant to be so. Perhaps without the lows, the highs could not be reached.”
The saddest part was the ending, or the last 20% or so of the book. There were two things that broke my heart completely:
1. The moment when another soul was brought to the cave and received a way better treatment from the refugees (oh, how that soul deserved to die a long and painful death!).
Yes, Wanda made a difference in their lives, she changed them for the best, made them better people even, but she was the one who suffered deeply through all that change. The ‘before and after’ mark felt like a punch in the face with a baseball bat and it torn my heart into pieces.
2. Then there were the good-byes, to the people she loved and to herself, to her body.
That part makes me cry every time. The passion with which she started to love the human beings, the way she started be one as well at heart, the way she saw the beauty in everything around her, the way she ached for a future in the body she wanted so badly to be her own, the way she loved the 3 most important people in her life, the way she fought for them, for their happiness at all costs.. there was so much meaning in all those words and they cut deep into my heart. It left my soul bleeding, it left me all teary-eyed.
Can you do that for me? I won’t take up much space.
She started like a strong character. She’s lived many lives, she saw different words, she was confident, she didn’t know failure, she wanted to help defeat the resistance because after all it was her duty.
But humans are such tricky creatures, they feel with their heart, their mind and their soul, so there was little she could do when she started to feel love too.
Love is in fact a very complex feeling, it makes you do things that you wouldn’t normally do – at first there was the remorse for telling what she found out; then there was the hiding of the things she knew, of her weakness; then there was the decision to follow her heart; in the end ‘love’ was all there was to her – she was defined by the people she cared about, the ones she protected because she found her own tiny place in this huge universe.
I liked how tridimensional she was – she was weak in some ways but strong in others, she was naive with the things she didn’t understand but also very smart and had a good survival instinct (there’s no irony here, I am not talking about her getting lost in the desert but surviving in the middle of the resistance group), she was not very spontaneous but she did surprise me here and there, she was calm and quiet but she knew how to fight for the things that mattered to her.. and for her life.
When it comes to love things get complicated, because Wanda understood something that YA characters seem to miss by a lot: the fact that someone needs to deserve your love.
She ‘had’ to love Jared, because all those perfect memories reminded her of better times, because that love gave her hope and made her happily drunk and naive.
But also she realized that love is something that you might win or lose, that you have to deserve it, you have to fight for it, you have to treat it right. I would have hated her for loving Jared after all the bad treatment. Yes, she still had some feelings though she wasn’t sure if they actually belonged to her, but she also found her own path, she also started to care for someone that cared for her in return, she also realized that fierily passion is simply not enough.
There is another thing that I need to discuss – her love for her body (Mel’s in fact). She saw the world through those eyes, she learned to move in that body, to talk and so on, and she felt so good being herself. It was not only after she was able to make comparisons, but from the beginning she did appreciate what she had.
It’s another thing that differentiate this book from others, this character from others and it would be good if we could love ourselves as much as she did.
“As I took another breath, I saw the three stars again. They were not calling to me; they were letting me go, leaving me to the black universe I had wandered for so many lifetimes. I drifted into the black, and it got brighter and brighter. It wasn’t black at all – it was blue. Warm, vibrant, brilliant blue…I floated into it with no fear at all.”
I didn’t really like her that much, her change of mood drove me crazy more than once, but still it’s understandable when you think about it.
She wanted to be herself again, she wanted to have the ones she loved near her, but also deep down she didn’t want to share them with Wanda. She feared that she could be erased, she was angry that she couldn’t touch the people she loved or talk to them, but there was also this strength to stay alive, to not fade, to persuade Wanda into saving Jared and Jamie. I can only admire her for keeping her promises and I forgive her for her weaknesses, because in her place I would have done probably just the same.
That’s why her actions were a bit contradictory: she pushed all those feelings into Wanda, but then she was jealous of her feelings. She wanted that love to be all her own again and that wasn’t possible.
She was torn between people accepting Wanda and staying close to her, but too much closeness hurt when it was meant for Wanda and not for her.
I can’t say that about Jamie as she willingly shared his love, but when it came to Jared and Ian things were even more complicated.
She longed for Jared to care for her, but she was afraid that he might fall for Wanda too. She wanted to kiss him but she didn’t want to share those kisses.
And she didn’t like Ian. Some times I wanted her to be a bit more considerate but then, when I think about it, I see how that would have felt like giving up. If she would have given Wanda this it would’ve been her surrender, because all that she had left was her love for Jared. If he were to be replaced by someone else, she would end up buried in her own body forever.
The friendship between Wanda and Mel started way before getting to the caves, it overcame a few bumps on the road and it grew stronger and stronger. By the ending I didn’t know whom I wanted to surrender because after all there was only one body and not enough room for two girls.
You might feel like the resolution was too simple, but it was the journey that mattered not the destination, and if some have the illusion that it was a happy ending, they are far from the truth. In the end the characters have lost much more than what they won. They have scars all over their souls, there are horrible mistakes tattooed on their minds; there is forgiveness but how much can one forget; there is reward but there was also so much loss.
Jared was a very complex character because he was probably the most conflicted, even more than Wanda and Melanie. For them it was simple, each wanted something different, but he was the one feeling both hope and despair all on his own.
When Wanda came into his life first was the sock, the stillness. I assume that it broke him just as much as it did for the girls.
Then there was the range. The person coming back was not who he wanted, but instead was the one that took everything for him and she was rubbing it in his face with her simple presence… She was the one that killed his own soul, if he believed in such things.
He was tortured, torn between protecting the body he loved so much and hating the person inside with all that he had.
There was this side of him that kept Wanda away from the others, that tried to keep her out of their reach, but there was also another dark side that he couldn’t hide: the hate he felt, the torment that made him not think straight but let the anger flow through his veins.
He couldn’t protect her from himself and that also killed him inside.
Imagine having two minds of your own, or imagine your heart wanting one thing so badly and your brain killing its own neurons over the things you know to be right.
In this futuristic word things are simple: shoot first, ask questions later. You don’t feel compassion for the creatures that took the life from the people you loved. You don’t believe their lies, you don’t protect them and you sure as hell don’t keep them alive. Ever.
But when the alien has your loved one’s face, it’s easier to say that you will push the trigger rather than actually do it.
“You and I won’t lose each other, I will always find you again. No matter how well you hide. I’m unstoppable.”
I must confess that I didn’t like Jared.
I cared for him because both Melanie and Wanda did, I loved the memories they shared, the man he’s been, but I couldn’t love the man he has become. I think that Wanda was tied to Melanie’s memories too, and I think that even Melanie wouldn’t like much this broken man that could barely live without her anymore, so dead inside.
Of course, over the time he started to see Wanda for what she really was, he started to see that there was more to her, more humanity that ever crossed his mind. But she was no Melanie and as long as he lived all he wanted was to break her free, no matter at what costs. I don’t blame him for that even though it hurt to know it. And his last “lie” hurt so much too (you can think whatever you want, I still cry at that scene).
It is easy to judge Jared for his violent behaviour, I wanted to punch him myself more than once, but trying to imagine the world he was living in I could see how different he was from any man in our present days and how I needed to change perspective to understand him better.
I couldn’t judge him from the eyes of Wanda because she was the victim there, so I needed to put myself in his shoes and see how would I feel if an alien would come into my life wearing my loved one’s skin and how the danger of it would affect my behaviour, how would it blind me, how would it torture me.
Sometimes I wonder about his feelings for Wanda, it is clear how much he loved Melanie and always will, but Wanda changed him clearly. He started to be more caring, not only with her, he wanted to make amendments for the bad treatment searching for an angel looking face, he kept her alive against her will even, and I think that she made an impression on him when she was the opposite of what he ever thought of ‘souls’. Not to mention that he owes her everything (and I mean that).
“Are you trying to be annoying?” I demanded. My patience was not waning, but entirely gone. “Because if you are, then be assured, you have succeeded.”
Jared and Wes looked at me with shocked eyes.
“I am female,” I complained. “That ‘it’ business is really getting on my nerves.”
Jared blinked in surprise, then his face settled back into harder lines. “Because of the body you wear?”
Wes glared at him.
“Because of me,” I hissed.
“By whose definition?”
“How about by yours? In my species, I am the one that bears young. Is that not female enough for you?”
That stopped him short. I felt almost smug.
‘As you should’, Melanie approved. ‘He’s wrong and he’s being a pig about it’.
‘We girls have to stick together’.”
This time I was the one conflicted.
I liked Ian most of the time and I was glad to see someone care for Wanda so much. But some times he was a bit too good to be true. I guess that the episodes from the beginning were meant to compensate for this side of him – too trusting, way too forgiving.
I still believe that it must have been hard for him, not falling in love with Wanda while she was in Mel’s body (that was simple, because she needed love, she had a beautiful body, she was beautiful inside too, also he needed to love and he was intrigued by her because he saw the difference in her when most of the others didn’t), but hard must have been crossing paths with Mel later..
I don’t think that his human mind was able to separated them that well.
Jamie and Jared made things easy for him, bringing back someone that would match the pure soul Wanda had, but still for us (humans) love has a lot to do with attraction too. We don’t need a supermodel next to us, but some part of our love is always physical too. Wanda was right to ask him: what if she came into someone else’s body, would she have been as easy to love?
The one thing that really bugged me was the possessiveness – I know he wanted the best for Wanda, but come on! She had a mind of her own, she could make decisions on her own. Yes, she was easy to manipulate because of the love she carried for Mel, Jamie and Jared (even for some others) and she needed (badly) someone to put a stop to her sacrifices, but still I didn’t like the way he acted.
Between him and Jared, I just wished for a planet without men.
But still, Wanda needed something real in her life. Everything belonged to Mel (the body, the family, the dreams, everything), but Ian only belonged to her. Ian showed her that tenderness could cure heartbreak, that not all monsters are alike, that mistakes can be made but you can always get the chance to make amendments. Ian showed her what was like to be loved for yourself and this was probably the most beautiful gift she had received in all her lives.
“Fine,’ Jared snapped. ‘But if you try cuddling up to me tonight… so help me, O’Shea.”
Ian chuckled. ‘ Not to sound overly arrogant, but to be perfectly honest, Jared, were I so inclined, I think I could do better.”
He was probably my favorite character. Not only in this book – he is simply one of the most awesome side characters ever.
I loved his ‘craziness’, it made him so much real, as real as any human being should be. I loved his compassion, the way he cared and protected all the people who lived under his roof, I loved his rules and the way he bended them to protect Wanda’s safety. He didn’t take sides, he saw everyone for what they were and he believed in second chances.
When he discovered his niece after all that time, I could feel his conflict too. Also I could feel his curiosity, and his good heart. He was a great leader and only because of him things turned right in the ending.
“It’s real interesting to have a soul as a friend, and it makes me feel super special that I’ve managed it.”
We needed a good laugh and we got this guy. For most of the story he is the bad guy, the one wanting to kill Wanda, the one getting into fights even the one that gets sometimes the rebels into trouble. But he was funny and appreciated his character more than not.
This being said, I still think that the ending was a bit too good for him, I wanted him to have his share of heartbreak, he seemed to accept facts too easily.
It might have been because he got used to Wanda and that changed him, it might be because he understood finally why Jared couldn’t kill the alien that had Mel’s body, it might have been because deep down he had a heart too and his heartbreak could have been the one acting in his place before.. I really don’t know.. But did I like this guy? A bit more when he was being funny, a bit less when he was spitting fire right and left.
Jamie is the sweetest character.
I loved him for making the distinction between his sister and Wanda and for loving them both. I loved him for taking their side even when he needed to fight with Jared. I loved him for being clumsy and adding some more action to this story 😉 No really, he is such a cute little boy and even though his sister’s disappearance changed him too, his heart remained as pure and his mind as open as before.
Some more characters:
I know this is getting all too long but I need to say a few words. There were some characters that will always remain in my heart:
Doc with his compassion, who step by step became Wanda’s friend – I could feel his pain when he had to make that promise to Wanda. The distance between how they started (on the left foot) and their trust near the ending took a lot of time and if there is something that I love in books is relationship development.
The Seeker was such a horrible creature. I am not sure if I hated someone with the same passion in all my reading life, but she really played with my nerves (and imagine it, if even Jeb wanted to put a bullet through her head).
Wes and Walter have a spot in my heart too… And so other people that cared for Wanda and helped her.
Pet – I understand why she was picked and why she was the total opposite of the strength that Wanda showed through the book. She represented the purity of the soul, but also all the things she has lost – sometimes I wonder: “it is not the body but..” really?!
I could talk about this story day and night, I love it to pieces, but I should really end this here.
I wanted to write about it again because I felt that I didn’t do it justice with my tiny old review (even though it’s one of my most popular reviews on Goodreads). Also because after watching the movie I felt the need to read it once more. My taste in books has changed over the years, but my love for this story has always remained the same – which feels wonderful.
Happy midnight reading!
I had no intention in writing a review about the movie, but I started talking about it and my line of thoughts got me to various places and so I decided to put them all here for everyone to read.
I need to mention that I didn’t read the book (again) before seeing the movie (only after), as I didn’t want all the details tattooed on my mind or heart to influence my enjoyment.
If I had to compare it with some of movies I really liked, this wouldn’t get not even on the bottom of the list, but I still liked it better than other (book) ecranisations and I enjoyed enormously remembering the story. I would need to see it again to have an actual opinion – you know how things are: the first time you see a book on the big screen you are all emotion and can’t really think about it :))
Having read the book (as for me books come first, movies second) I can’t say that I had too many problems with it (I know why they changed some things – ok, a whole lot of things; that they couldn’t fit everything/everyone in the film; and I know they didn’t invest much in it – so, a low budget won’t magically create the best quality out there), still for all the other people that didn’t read the book I am not sure what can they understand from it. It was pretty rushed and quite a bit cheesy. Also Mel’s voice was strange and their fighting a bit awkward.
Now, if you want to enjoy it, don’t go comparing it with the book (better even – forget all about the book just for 2 hours), as that’s a pretty good way to get yourself disappointed.
The book and the movie are 2 entirely different things, more here when the book is based on SO MUCH character development and it’s quite descriptive and emotion driven.
In the movie they tried to follow a line with some sort of action and also please the book fans with some favourite scenes, but there was no time for too many of our favourite scenes or relationship development – and they had to link these scenes together in a way that didn’t resemble what was in the book, which is not bad actually, it’s just different. The actually did a good job giving a bit of everything that is good in the story, the fact is that I am not sure if even 10 hours would have been enough to tell the whole story.
What I appreciated though was the acting – not on all actors, but on some (I loved uncle Jeb so much, I liked Jamie to tears and Jared was at times like I had imagined him, even though at first the actor was not one on my linking and I am far from becoming a fan) as they did a good job portraying the characters (even the seeker that does not resemble the one from the book at all had her own ‘charm’ in the movie, as evil as she was).
I don’t want to give you too high hopes, so I am saying it again, rushed it is! (Hunger Games was too and other films inspired by books). But I’ll assume that you are a book fan and you know all that happened in the story, so I think that you will enjoy some favourite scenes on the big screen even though they kept out may others and even though the “humanity” of the book was somehow left out too.
Now the very bad thing is that it lacked character (and relationship) development. It’s a plus in the book, but such a big minus in the movie. And this is because the storyline is incredibly simple (compared to the book which packs tons of information and lots of important moments on which the character development depended on).
So you can’t really connect with the characters because you don’t know them.
You don’t know the relationship between Wanda and Melanie because there was not much to it in the movie, and you can’t understand the changes the characters had to go through because in one scene they are hateful and in the other they are caring – what in the book took weeks to happen, in the movie seemed like only a few days passed (at most). Also, personality wise, Mel and Wanda had to be switched somehow to make the dual personality work (so Wanda might seem a bit to weak and naïve for her own good in the movie, and this saddened me a bit to be honest).
Anyways, for me this movie has been worth it, if only for these scenes:
Hope you’ll enjoy it too, but don’t make people that didn’t read the books first go see it, because they might not like it. Instead, ask them to read the book first 😉