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. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.
Where do I even begin? Meyer is responsible for the Twilight series. For the sake of removing bias from this review, I'm going to ignore that fact to the best of my ability. While
The Host is long, in depth, and intense. While it takes a few chapters to get rolling, once it picks up speed there is no stopping it. The characters are the driving force of this book. They literally come to life. Melanie, Wander (Wanda), Jared, and all of the secondary characters are well rounded and multi-dimensional. So much of the action and dialogue takes place within Wanda/Melanie's head, it is difficult not to over-identify with her/them and her/their struggle. And yet, it isn't boring. Wanda's memories of alien worlds and her desire to blend into the newly conquered human world conflict with Melanie's deep love of her boyfriend and brother and her desire to regain her life and body. Yet the two must work together, despite personal desires pulling them in opposite directions. Soon the lines begin to blur, and the factors separating Melanie and Wanda lose distinction. Wanda begins to love the humans she's supposed to hunt down because Melanie loves them so. And Melanie begins to realize that Wanda isn't the monster she initially believed. It's an uneasy partnership fueled by necessity that eventually becomes much more, but ultimately cannot last. A single body cannot support two souls with both remaining intact, and so one must inevitably leave.
I can't possibly say enough about the characterization in The Host. Even the basest characters have some redeeming qualities, and the most angelic are capable of evil. Everyone is a hero, everyone is a villain. It's a true study of human nature and the core traits that truly render someone "human."
The setting itself acts as another secondary character; the cave in which the survivors live as much a part of the story as the heroines, Wanda and Melanie. The plot is shaped by those rough cave walls, etched out of the world Meyer creates. The tedium of everyday survival within the cave is palpable and stands in stark juxtaposition to the frantic action surrounding every venture beyond the cave walls. But even the cave itself is not completely safe from danger, and trouble comes in many forms throughout the course of the story. It is truly never dull.
The plot of The Host is too long, involved and twisting for me to give it justice, so I'm not going to try. Read the synopsis and if you have even the slightest urge to read more, I highly recommend getting this book. Buy it, because it's one you'll want to have on hand for future rereads. The story starts slow, but that slow start lays the foundation for an exceptional work of fiction that holds a great deal of truth.
I sincerely wish Meyer writes more stories like this one. It's nothing short of phenomenal.