June 4, 2011

The Host: Review (Adult)

The Host by Stephenie Meyer, read for my "Read Outside Your Comfort Zone" Challenge

Goodreads' description:

"Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed. 

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, 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. 

Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind 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 begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love."
Why is it outside my comfort zone? By and large, I'm not a fan of traditional sci-fi. Aliens, super advanced technology and death rays just don't do it for me. I do enjoy sci-fi aspects that are less "science-y," such as time travel and dystopian societies. But The Host came up when I asked you guys for recommendations for this challenge, and I thought the premise sounded promising. Plus I thought I might be able to get past the sci-fi stuff since the love story was an important part of it.

Did it win me over? Why or why not? Oh yes, it did. I got fully sucked into Wanderer's story and the world Meyer creates in The Host.

Admittedly, it's pretty slow-moving, especially at the beginning. It clocks in at a monstrous 600+ pages and frankly, I was intimidated. I'm betting you could knock someone out stone cold with a book this thick and heavy. But after a little while I was devouring it eagerly; whenever I put it down soon enough I would be picking it right back up again. I think I read it in about a day and a half or so, so you can imagine how fiercely I was engrossed in it.

The style took some getting used to, as at first it's difficult to tell sometimes if it is Wanderer's emotions or Melanie's that we are being told about. They are two personalities sharing a body, after all, and perhaps that was intentional to get the reader to experience Wanderer's confusion and frustration. 

The conflict that occurs at first between Wanderer and Jared is very believable, but I must say I never really bought Wanderer's romantic feelings towards him, especially after they've met. Sure, it makes sense that Melanie's emotions leak over to Wanderer when he's just a face in her memory, and okay, they've got physical chemistry that Wanderer has no control over. But when he treats her the way he does and she claims she can't help still loving him? I just wasn't feeling it. I also thought that once Jared finally smartened up in how he acted towards Wanderer, his personality became less defined or distinguishable from Ian's. What remains constant about Jared, however, is the clear bond and deep emotion he feels for Melanie, and his unwavering resolve to get her back.

Ian, however...now, that relationship I could get behind. That one I actually saw coming from quite a ways off, because he was so sweet and protective of Wanderer when hardly anyone else seemed to care. I love that he sees her for who she truly is, the personality behind the body that isn't really hers. He is a little possessive of Wanderer at times, especially when he risks losing her, but not to the same extent as a certain other guy Meyer has written about. The fact that Melanie dislikes him really complicates matters in a sometimes-amusing, sometimes-frustrating way. 

Hard-core sci-fi fans will likely be disappointed by those elements in this novel. The scientific basis behind these parasitic souls and their invasion of Earth? Not very plausible. The other worlds that Wanderer has lived on in other bodies? Pretty fantastical (there are even Dragons mentioned). But this really didn't bother me much, because as I've said, the really scientific stuff tends to scare me off. Actually, I enjoyed the vibrant creativity of these other worlds we hear about, since the one Wanderer is experiencing is usually dark and hard and gritty. (Like, literally — a lot of the book is spent in a huge labyrinth of caves).

Best aspect? Wanderer's personal journey: she begins as a cold, inhuman soul and grows to belong in a community with her own unique, distinct identity. I liked her character right from the beginning; she has such an amazing sense of justice and self-sacrifice, as well as a subtly dry wit. She's a strong character that you can respect because she has such good intentions (and she's a pacifist, innately averse to violence, which really made her character stand out from the others). It was a treat to watch the community that originally held her prisoner begin to see her as one of their own, and Wanderer to begin making emotional connections.

And I loved the way that her relationship with Melanie changes over time. They start out despising and loathing each other, and yet they are forced to rely on each other which brings them closer together. The conflict inherent in a parasitic situation is tempered by the bonds that grow between these two minds in their shared body. Wanderer's relationship with Jamie was nice to see as well — not as dynamic as the one with Melanie, but it was pure and innocent in a way that only a friendship with a trusting, unsuspicious, unjaded child can be.

If I could change something, I would... well, I never felt like I got to know Melanie's character all that well, despite the fact she's often in Wanderer's head. Or perhaps I just didn't like the aspects I did see of her — in comparison to Wanderer she just seemed much more single-minded, at least throughout most of the book: she only cared about Jared and Jamie. And there were certain times I thought she should have been more vocal, that it didn't make sense she wasn't voicing her opinion on events, since she sees and hears everything Wanderer does. 

I did find the writing to be overly dramatic in a few places, particularly with some of the dialogue. Melanie's character seemed to often react in an over-the-top way, perhaps written as such in an attempt to contrast sharply with Wanderer's more measured responses. Also, it is rather dense and wordy (given the page count, this shouldn't be surprising), and I thought the sentence structure could use some variety in places to give it a smoother, less choppy flow. Keep in mind, though, that it is an adult novel, and generally speaking they are slower and wordier than YA novels, resulting in less rapid-fire reading.

Just one more thing I want to mention: I felt very conflicted about the ending. At the heart of this book is a dilemma that I'm not sure could have been resolved in any way that would have satisfied me entirely. I felt like perhaps the author was giving the reader what she thought they wanted, rather than going for a harder but potentially more powerful ending. However, I'm not sure that I would have been completely happy with the alternative. Very spoilery, highlight to read: I was surprised when I thought Meyer was going for the darker means of resolving the dilemma, with Wanderer's death. It seemed sad but fitting, and I sympathized with Wanderer's desire not to leech off of anyone else again. So to have that flipped on its head as Wanderer wakes up to realize she's been put into a beautiful body and can have everything she truly wanted was a bit too much 'wish fulfillment' for my style, leaving me feeling like Meyer was taking the easy way out. (And that's not even getting into how convenient it is for them to bump into another group of rebels at the very end). However, I was happy for Wanderer's sake that she got to have a future, since I liked her character so much and I was indeed disappointed when I finished the book and my adventure with her was over.

Would I read more like this book? For sure — although perhaps they could be a little shorter! The premise of a parasitic relationship is so simple, yet offers so much for the author to work with. But what ensnared me was the personal side of it, as Wanderer discovers who she is and where she belongs — and I would certainly go for that a second time, whether or not it's sci-fi.

Final verdict: 4.5 shooting stars. I took off half a star, mostly for the issue I had with the ending, but I would probably award the reading experience itself 5 stars, because I was so caught up in it.

Don't: read if you are expecting a hard-core, scientifically valid alien invasion book.
Do: read if you enjoy psychology, character growth, ethical dilemmas, and a love triangle (rectangle?) like you've never seen before.

Don't: judge it by the Twilight series. Seriously, don't.
Do: give it a try, even if it's outside your comfort zone!

If you haven't signed up yet for the "Read Outside Your Comfort Zone" challenge and would like to, you can learn more about it and fill out the form HERE. 


  1. Agree with your thoughts on the ending. I had the same complaint with the Twilight series, actually. Just a little too convenient and happy-ever-after for my tastes. That said, I really did enjoy this read, much more than I enjoyed Twilight. I'm looking forward to seeing where she will take it in future installments, which apparently she has plans in the works for.

  2. Yay! I really liked this book, it was hard to start and keep with it but it was all good after that. I loved learning about Wanderer's other lives, super cool. And Ian of course ;D
    And like Aylee said, there will be (I think) 2 more books, and a movie!

  3. Squee! So glad to hear you enjoyed it. The Twilight series has a special place in my heart for me, but I do think The Host is Meyer's best work. The last I heard, she hasn't written the sequel but fingers crossed she gets to it eventually. I would love to see these characters -- Ian especially -- again.

  4. i haven't read this book and i didn't intend to because yes, i'm judging it by its author. okay, now i have to think about it. it really does sound interesting. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it. fantastic review :)


  5. Sci-fi isn't my thing either but I took it up out of curiosity.
    After two chapters though, I put it on the back-burner.But after your review, I'll give it a try :)

  6. Hm, maybe I shouldn't have given away my copy. I had a beautiful hardcover but I gave it away after it had sat unread for a few years (I admit, the size put me off).

    It was tough keeping track of all those names in your review! :P

  7. I'm glad to hear you really enjoyed The Host! I'm remember from discussions on Chapters/Indigo that quite a few people had a hard time getting through the first 100 pages or so but after a certain point, the story really picked up.

    I totally want to re-read the book again after reading your review, lol!!

  8. I still need to read this one! I've heard that it's really good, though, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! I should definitely move this up my TBR list.

  9. Oh just reading your review brings back memories of when I read this book. It makes me just want to go and reread it!! I really was surprised at how much I liked this book. I am not a scifi person either but it was so well written. I really like Ian as well. I think the story was just surprisingly awesome. And of course you have to love Uncle Jeb and the little brother who is not so little anymore. Great review!


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