• Valkyrie

Body snatchers. Aliens. Kissing. This is The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The end of humanity has come.



In The Host by Stephenie Meyer, an alien race lacking physical bodies known as “souls” have spread their galaxy-wide conquest to Earth, capturing humans to use as their new hosts. For some it might sound terrifying, but for soul Wanderer, she knows that her species is merely saving a planet from the humans who exist to destroy it. Wanderer is a Seeker- a soul who’s only purpose is to be inserted over and over into different bodies. She’s been to every planet under soul control, but she’s never witnessed a planet like Earth- nor a challenge as large as being human. When Wanderer is inserted into Melanie, a human girl believed to be braindead, she expects her life go on as usual. But something unpredictable happens- Melanie is still awake in her body.


In a last effort to survive, Melanie floods Wanderer’s mind with memories of her past, including visions of her brother Jamie and beloved Jared. But to Wanderer’s surprise, she doesn’t decide to abandon Melanie’s body- instead, unable to separate her own feelings from Melanie’s, Wanderer abandons her colony to find the family she’s never met. The two girls, through one body, will journey back to a secret community of surviving humans, one Wanderer is eager to accept. But even with Melanie’s face, voice, and memories, she isn’t her. She’s nothing more than a parasite, a mockery of humanity.


Some humans will believe Wanderer is one of “the good ones”, a person with her own life and personality. But others cannot see beyond her soul, viewing her as nothing more than a monster. One of these such people is Jared, a man both girls long for, but would willingly execute Wanderer for taking Melanie’s body. But maybe that wouldn’t be a bad decision, as the souls searching for the missing Wanderer grow closer and closer to the human’s hiding space. But Wanderer no longer considered herself alien- Earth is the place she’s always meant to be, and she’ll die defending the humans she’s come to love.


MY THOUGHTS


Where The Host succeeds most is not the same with Stephenie Meyer’s other books, which rely on almost hypnotic romantic scenarios, but with the changes the main characters go through. The Host is told through the first-person perspective of Wanderer, an alien who has gone by many names, been many creatures, and lived on many planets beyond human understanding. At the beginning of the book, Wanderer, later called “Wanda” by the humans, is a very professional, all-work-no-play soldier. Although she has had the wonderful opportunity to experience life for thousands of years, all through new eyes, she shows no sign of joy or fulfillment. It seems like more of a duty to her, one that she is determined to complete, even if there is no end in sight. However, once she enters Melanie’s body, that façade begins to crack.


As far as we are told, there was never any knowledge of a soul experiencing a sentient body (at least not until the end of the book). When Wanda discovers Melanie is not only alive, but completely capable of communication, she begins to panic. She tries to probe her for information about possible surviving humans, still taking advantage of the situation for the benefits of souls, but as we come to see, Wanda is no match for the overload of emotions brought on by Melanie’s memories.


The two girl’s feelings blend, causing Wanda to feel the same way about Melanie’s friends and family that she does. No longer does Wanderer want to bring harm to these people- in fact, she’s fallen in love with them. The Wanda at the beginning of the book would have no problem turning over humans, even children to become vessels, but due to this unforeseen predicament, the emotionless, ruthless soul has made a 180 in personality.


The more the book goes on, the more we see Wanderer is quite shy and compassionate, shying away from anger and conflict, something not present before. Some might say she has become weaker, and while that can be considered true, I personally interpret this is showing her transformation to human. At one point in the book, a character calls Wanda “alien”, to which she replies that since she is a soul, she is whatever species she dwells in. This is straightforward, but I feel there is something deeper than that. While she was “human” at the beginning of the book, she was cold and uniform. It was not until she learned of love that she developed, gaining a personality and compassion. This is what it was truly meant to be human. The fulfillment she lacked was not brought by exploring planets for higher-ups, but instead seeking something out for herself, that thing being a community, a family, and love.



The Host, of course, is written by the notorious Stephenie Meyer. You may recognize

Love at first smell (from the first Twilight movie)

this name for the overwhelmingly popular Twilight Saga, a series that would later become a cultural phenomenon who’s impacts still last today (albeit in a post-ironic sense). Being a vampire stan (meaning, a super fan), Twilight is one of my favorite series around, which is how I discovered this book. However, I enjoy Twilight for an entirely different reason than The Host, which is what I think Meyer succeeds at best.


In the first sentence of the book analysis, I said that Meyer’s other books succeed mostly due to “almost hypnotic romantic scenarios.”


Let me explain.


Now, this may sound sacrilegious for such a big vampire fan such as myself, but Twilight is in no way a “good book.” It’s a cheesy romance designed to make middle school girls in 2009 buy life-sized cardboard cutouts of their favorite character, with some decent fantasy elements supporting it. If I was being realistic, it’s a good series to read on your commute to work and nothing more. “But that’s impossible!” you cry out. “Valkyrie, if it’s such a mediocre read, that why do you own every book in the series and quote the movies almost every day?” Well, this is where we come to what Stephanie Meyer does best. Campiness.


While this is far more apparent in the movies, what makes Twilight, as well as Meyer’s other departures so enjoyable, is the addictive storyline and nosebleed romance jam-packed into these otherwise cheesy titles. You couldn’t give a flying fart about Bella Swan getting hit by a car in her high school parking lot, but once the strangely satisfying interactions with Edward and Jacob come, you can’t help but be drawn in. You want to know what happens to these characters- if not for them, then their relationships. I would say this is the case for most YA romance novels, particularly fantasy romance, but Twilight is an outlier. Maybe it’s because it kickstarted the fantasy romance YA genre, maybe it’s because of the cultural impact, maybe it’s because Fifty Shades of Grey started as a Twilight fanfiction, but I feel the series as a whole perfectly encapsulates what makes Meyer a great writer.


While this kind of romance is not so apparent in The Host, you can still detect the same idea Meyer tried to implement. Wanderer has the most control of Melanie’s body, while Melanie is just a disembodied voice in her head. Melanie has loved Jared, the main love interest, for years, and now Wanderer does too, but only due to having these emotions force-fed into her brain. She thinks she sincerely loves Jared, but he is disgusted by her, only in love with the Melanie he knows is trapped in Wanda’s brain.

Wanda longs for Jared’s affection, and can steal a few kisses, but she knows that they were only meant for Melanie. Later, however, Ian, another surviving human is introduced, and is the opposite of Jared. While Jared loves Melanie, Wanderer’s vessel, Ian loves Wanda’s soul, and has no feelings for her body. This love triangle is like the one in the Twilight Saga, with one girl having to choose between two opposites who love her for different reasons.


(Interestingly, grown men kissing little girls who are not really little girls are in both books, with Jacob Black in Twilight falling in love with Bella Swan’s fast-aging demigod vampire baby, and Ian kissing Wanderer in her next vessel, who is a 12-year-old girl {Ian is 17}. Strange.)

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