I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am not a Stephenie Meyer fan. There isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind to that fact after reading “The Host.” I thought it might just be a “Twilight” aversion, which is why I waited so long to read it. More than once, I actually threw those books across the room I was so irritated and annoyed with Bella, and several times alone with “Breaking Dawn.” I had hoped “The Host” might redeem her as a writer for me, but I’ve decided from here on out just to skip her novels.
Thematically, I did feel as if “The Host” was sound. There were some great discussions about what it meant to be human and how the harshness of the human condition might be perceived from a spectator. The idea that humanity was capable of great evil was balanced with the fact that humanity was also capable of good – love, kindness, acceptance, joy, happiness, even self-sacrifice for the people we love. There were no black and whites, and Wanda’s people — the souls — only saw humanity in black and white when selecting Earth. Wanda and the humans learned lessons from each other, allowing them to grow in their humanity.
Despite the lessons, the novel was way too long. The narrative discussion was long-winded and repetitive, and frankly, the story could have been told in half as many pages and still had the same effect. I actually found myself “checking out” mentally only to realize I had, but still was able to continue reading and not even miss key points or exchanges. Five days in a dark hole … do we really need to read that narrative? I think not.
Meyer’s portrayal of women also sickened me, or at least how the men treat the women sickened me. I had the same reaction with the “Twilight” series. The difference this time around was that Bella really was sniveling and weak, but I found Melanie and Wanda as individuals and as a collective to be quite strong. Melanie’s fighting spirit brings Wanda into the desert, and Wanda’s growth as a human allowed her to do things that I don’t think even I would have the strength to follow through with.
It was the men in their lives that treated them as if they were children and with condescension — Jared’s “sorry, honey, you’re only a child and must be taken care of so we couldn’t possibly have sex” reframe made me roll my eyes, or Jared and Ian always trying to force their wills on Wanda as if she didn’t know her own mind or Melanie’s thoughts on a matter. That subsided with Ian, but most women I know wouldn’t give Jared the time of day with his level of condescension, and I did not find him appealing or even understand how Melanie or Wanda could have loved someone like that.
Bringing me to my final point — I did not feel the connection between this supposed love triangle, foursome, whatever “The Host” was dubbed in that area. I felt the connection with her brother, and I felt the friendship between her and Ian, but I did not once sense love between her and Jared. And understanding that Wanda loves the humans is far different then actually showing that connection. Part of me feels that if there hadn’t been so much introspective conflict and debate and more “show” that Meyer would have accomplished her goal. But then again, I think crafting a world is Meyer’s strength. When it comes to crafting characters … well, let’s just say the characters and their “connections” are what keep me interested, and Meyer has lost me for good.