The Host by Stephenie Meyer fulfills the “Book with a Main Character in their Twenties” category for the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. Wanda, the symbiont, is well over a hundred, but the body she inhabits, Melanie, is twenty-one years old.
I’ve used quite a few Young Adult books on the blog. I’m sorry if that’s not your jam. But at least for this prompt, I needed a younger person, and it fit YA well. I have more non-fiction, mysteries, and romance in store for everyone. Lately, though, YA has been my refuge.
Please indulge me.
The Host is science fiction at its base. One might want to throw Ms. Meyer into paranormal because of the other series she penned. I don’t need to say it, right? (I liked the books for what they were, but I ain’t saying no more.) But this story is all aliens and other worlds. Ms. Meyer never clarifies the “how” of the science, and it works for the novel. Die-hard sci-fi fans might grumble that she does not explain how the symbiosis works or the medical advances or the ability to travel to multiple worlds. She brushes over it because the book is about the people, not the science.
In an interesting premise, the earth has been taken over by small centipede-like creatures who are highly intelligent. These Souls, as they are called, work as parasites/symbiotic beings and inhabit the body of sentient creatures. They live through that host, learning about aspects of the body, mind, and environment. Their minds are in charge. Souls are very peaceful beings and have lived on various plants with little resistance to their taking over. And since it’s always a non-violent takeover, they see no issues with colonizing these planets and taking over the individuals they inhabit.
Then they come to Earth and try to assimilate the humans. And y’all know how we’d react to that. It’s an old premise used in Star Trek, Marvel movies, and the like, how humans are resilient, resistant, and buck any attempt to be controlled. It’s a great trope, but a trope, none-the-less. No spoilers, but you can guess how the book proceeds with the humans versus aliens. The aware symbiont of Melanie/Wanda makes it interesting. We love them both. Does one have to die for the other to live? (Harry Potter much?) And Ms. Meyer finds a resolve that disappointed me. No spoilers.
The love triangle was another trope used in the book, very similar to her other series. The twist this time is one man loves the body, the other loves the symbiont. Neat. But some of the “heroine in distress” elements of the novel (much like her other books) took away from the story. Other characters carry Wanda around all the time. The people act for her, and she watches. She, like Bella, lets things happen to her. I hated that. And the decision made in the ending, no spoilers, puts this “helpless female” trope on a pedestal with glitter, sparkles, and a spotlight.
I liked the premise and most of the execution. I could have dealt without the teenage angst and oh, a better resolution.
I give The Host by Stephenie Meyers Four Intelligent Centipedes.