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“There were eight humans half-circled around where I knelt under the tree. There was no question they were humans, all of them. I’d never seen faces contorted into such expressions—not on my kind. These lips twisted with hatred, pulled back over clenched teeth like wild animals. These brows pulled low over eyes that burned with fury,” Wanderer. –The Host
by Stephenie Meyer
Earth has been invaded and successfully conquered by tiny, worm-like aliens called “souls,” who invade the bodies of humans and take over their minds. The invasion is over, the souls have won, and only a handful of wild humans are left in hiding.
When one of those humans is captured, Wanderer is inserted into its body to report to the other souls what life this wild human led, and to discover if there were other wild humans with her. But when Wanderer enters Melanie’s body, Wanderer is shocked to find Melanie still conscious and resisting. This is Wanderer’s body now; Melanie should have faded away.
Melanie’s presence frightens and shames Wanderer, who feels weak at not being able to control her host body. But then Melanie’s memories start to seep in, memories of a human brother and a lover who are still in hiding, memories of what it means to be human. Wanderer starts to love these people who she has never met and longs for them. When the opportunity arises, will Wanderer destroy Melanie and sell out her family to the other souls? Or will Wanderer turn her back on her fellow souls and attempt to find Melanie’s family to taste just what makes humanity so special?
Many readers will want to pick up The Host because Stephenie Myers is the author. Even though The Host is considered an adult novel and has more advanced vocabulary than the Twilight series, the content level is similar to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. One area that may be controversial is that Melanie has a romantic relationship with a slightly older man; during The Host Melanie is 21 and her love interest is 29. However, there are many flashbacks to when Melanie is 17 and first met Jared, who was then 26. When she wants to be intimate, Jared initially says no because he does not want to take advantage of her. They do get together at some point after that, though their ages are not specified.
The Host is an emotional story that explores the bounds of love and examines what it means to be human. Wanderer is a kind, gentle soul who hates her host at first, but then grows to love her; Melanie is a spirited and sometimes violent girl who has learned to survive in the world the souls have created. Both Melanie and Wanderer have to set aside their preconceived ideas about the other species and find common ground. There is an array of characters who are all richly drawn and satisfyingly complex. The story contains enough danger to constantly keep readers on their toes. For readers looking for love, adventure, and an emotionally wrenching story, The Host is sure to delight.
- Jared kisses Melanie. “He kisses me again, and this time I feel it. His lips are softer than his hands, and hot, even in the hot desert night.”
- When Melanie says she wants to share a room with Jared, he says that’s a bad idea because when he was stocking his place, “birth control was pretty much the last thing on my mind.”
- Jared kisses Wanderer to test her reaction. “I think he just meant to touch his lips to mine, to be soft, but things changed when our skin met. His mouth was abruptly hard and rough, his hands trapped my face to his while his lips moved mine in urgent, unfamiliar patterns.”
- The first time Ian kisses Wanderer, he “ducked in and touched his lips to my forehead.” The second time, “His lips were soft and warm. He pressed them lightly to mine, and then brushed them back and forth across my mouth. . . He caught my lower lip between his and pulled on it gently.”
- After a soccer game, two friends are playing around. “She laughed, tugging away, but Wes reeled her in and planted a solid kiss on her laughing mouth.”
- Wanderer and Ian kiss twice more, both described in similar fashion. When they kissed, Wanderer “shoved my mouth against his, gripping his neck tighter with my arms…Remembering how his mouth had moved with mine before, I tried to mimic that movement now. His lips opened with mine, and I felt an odd thrill of triumph at my success. I caught his lower lip between my teeth and heard a low, wild sound break free from his throat in surprise.”
- When Wanderer and Jared kiss, “My hands knotted in his hair, pulling him to me as if there were any possible way for us to be closer. My legs wrapped around his waist, the wall giving me the leverage I needed. His tongue twisted with mine, and there was no part of my mind that was not invaded by the insane desire that possessed me. . . My hands fisted around the fabric of Jared’s T-shirt, yanking it up.”
- When they agree to move into the same room, Wanderer thinks, “Ian and I would be together, partners in the truest sense.”
- When Melanie is robbing a house, a man grabs her. “‘One sound and you die,’ he threatens gruffly. I am shocked to feel a thin, sharp edge pushing into the skin under my jaw.”
- When Jared first kisses Melanie, “his lips come hard on mine…I jerk my knee up in a sharp thrust.”
- Wanderer reads the headlines of an old human newspaper. There are stories including “Man Burns Three-Year-Old Daughter to Death” and “beneath this was the face of a man wanted for the murders of his wife and two children.”
- When Jared first sees Wanderer, “his arm shot out and the back of his hand smashed into the side of my face. The blow was so hard that my feet left the ground before my head slammed into the rock floor. I heard the rest of my body hit the floor with dull thumps, but I didn’t feel it. My eyes rolled back in my head.”
- A group of humans try to kill Wanderer. The struggle takes place over two pages. “His hands wrapped around my throat, choking off my air. I clawed at his hands with my useless, stubby nails. He gripped me tighter, dragging my feet off the floor.”
- Jamie hits Jared. “There was a sharp crack, and someone gasped…Jared had one hand over his nose, and something dark was oozing down over his lips. His eyes were wide with surprise.”
- Kyle tries to kill Wanderer; the fight is described over eight pages. “His hand locked on the back of my neck, forcing my face into the shallow stream…He fought to push me back into the stream, but I wriggled and wedged myself under him so that this own weight was working against his goal…He jumped over the smaller stream with a bound and carried me toward the closest sinkhole. The steam from the hot spring washed my face. He was going to throw me into the dark, hot hole and let the boiling water pull me into the ground as it burned me.”
- Wanderer discovers that the humans tried to cut out one of the alien souls. “Brighter than these were other silver things. Shimmering segments of silver stretched in twisted, tortured pieces across the table…tiny silver strands plucked and naked and scattered…splatters of silver liquid smeared on the table, the blankets, the walls.”
- Wanderer asks Jared to hit her face with a rock, to cover a scar. “It made a squishing sound and a thud—that was the first thing I noticed—and then the shock of the blow wore off, and I felt it, too.”
- To fake an injury, Wanderer deliberately stabs herself with a knife. “I jammed the knife into my arm. The headrest muffled my scream, but it was still loud. The knife fell from my hand—jerking sickeningly out from the muscle—and then clunked against the floor.”
- Ian punches Jared. “Ian’s fist struck Jared so fast that I missed the blow—I just felt the lurch in his body and saw Jared reel back into the dark hall.”
- Melanie attacks Jared when she thinks he killed Wanderer. “He’s got my right hand, so instead of punching, I throw out a vicious backhand with my left, catching his face across the cheekbone. The force of the blow stings in the bones of my hand.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- “Hell” is used a few times. When Wanderer remembers her host body’s death, she was, “sucked into the hell that was the last minute of her life.” Another time Jeb says, “How the hell would I know?”
- “Damn” is used several times. One time Jared says, “Damn it, Jeb! We agreed not to—”?”
- Earth has been overrun with aliens called souls, which take over the body of their human hosts. “The soul shone in the brilliant lights of the operating room, brighter than the reflective silver instrument in his hand. Like a living ribbon, she twisted and rippled…her thin, feathery attachments, nearly a thousand of them, billowed softly like pale silver hair.”
- When Melanie asks Wanderer if souls believe in an afterlife, Wanderer says, “There’s a reason we call it the final death…We have so many lives. Anything more would be…too much to expect…When I die here, that will be the end.”
- When a friend dies, Wanderer says at his funeral, “I hope your fairytales are true. I hope you find your Gladdie.”
- A soul commits suicide. “Then his face went blank, and his body slumped, unresisting, to the cot. Two trails of blood flowed from his nostrils.”