If your only exposure to Stephenie Meyer has been Twilight, then don’t run away screaming. While her teen/young adult series was generally ok, it was badly written, the female character was apathetic and served no other purpose than to be protected at all times, until the very last book; and the supernatural was mainly used to make an age-old story (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?) more interesting for younger readers.
The Host on the other hand has everything you’d want from a (young) adult sci-fi/romance novel: the main female character(s) are strong, independent and likeable, the male characters are strong, human, and they care about something else than the female lead(s) and the plot actually has a purpose as opposed to being an underlying accompaniment for the love story.
We’re in an unnamed future (things are like they have been for the past 10 years or so) but Earth has been invaded by Aliens calling themselves Souls. These octopus-like beings (but with lots more appendixes) inhabit host bodies, taking over their minds and erasing the person inside. Earth is all but taken care of, but a few humans remain. Melanie has been caught by Seekers (I’d compare them to police/FBI?) and a Soul has been inserted in her body: Wanderer.
When Wanderer wakes up, she realises that Melanie’s spirit has not been completely erased. On the contrary, Melanie’s memories and emotions overwhelm Wanderer who has difficulty adjusting to life as a human, especially when her Seeker constantly nags her about discovering other humans, namely those Melanie was with.
In order to protect the man she loves and her little brother, Melanie hides away some of her memories while at the same time swamping Wanderer with recollections of a better life, effectively forcing Wanderer to fall in love with a man she’s never met: Jared.
Eventually, Melanie manages to convince Wanderer to go look for her uncle Jeb, the place she suspects Jared to be. For Melanie, this is the only way to ever return to the people she cares about, and for Wanderer it’s the chance to find a place where she belongs, even if it is amongst people from a different kind.
The very thick book (think Breaking Dawn) is packed with internal dialogues between Wanderer and Melanie, both of them showing their strengths, as well as having enough love and passion to keep you going page after page. The surroundings are well described, with enough imagination to sound fascinating, but enough details to sound real.
The book ends quite openly and early readers were disappointed that no follow-up was planned. Now that the movie is to be released at the end of the month, it appears Stephenie Meyer has been talked into writing two sequels (which will surely end up as films as well). Hopefully, she will keep the good standard of story-telling as this book cannot be turned into another Twilight fad.
Pictures from: wikimedia.org, therichest.org, blogosphere.it