Pet by Catherine Chidgey

Review by Jules Galgan

The mark of an exceptional novel is that it makes you feel that you have been transported to another time or place entirely. This story did both for me with such ease I forgot I was reading. Pet is the story of twelve year old Justine, as she processes the recent death of her mother in 1980s New Zealand. When she goes back to school after a summer of grief and growing up too early, she meets her stunningly beautiful new teacher, Mrs. Price. Within moments of meeting the charismatic new teacher, Justine and the rest of her classmates have fallen in love and everyone is willing to do anything in order to win her favor. As the story unfolds, Justine finds her way into Mrs. Price’s good graces and becomes, of course, her pet. But just when things seem like they couldn’t get any better, strange things begin to happen in the classroom. My eyes were glued to the pages as I witnessed the betrayals, manipulation, and odd circumstances that Mrs. Price seemed to bring with her.

Thrilling and engaging, Pet draws you along in a literary journey that not only keeps you guessing, but makes you contemplate larger topics such as grief, friendship, and acceptance. The theme of childhood innocence makes you feel fiercely protective of Justine and her classmates. Mrs. Price seems so perfect on the outside with her shiny red lips and perfectly teased hair, but as she interacts with the children, you get a sense of wrongness. What is this woman’s story and why does something just feel... off? Once you’ve begun to ask these questions, it is impossible to put the book down until you have absorbed every word. My jaw dropped multiple times and each shock made my stomach clench.

This book is perfect for anyone who loves a good character study that leads to an incredible plot twist. I devoured this book. Even months after finishing it, I still find myself going back to the classroom, spinning the story around from different angles to parse where things went wrong.