Shocking isn't it? I think I shocked myself when I picked up this book at a thrift shop and thought, "Oh, why not." Before, the only example of Stephenie Meyer's writing that I had heard of was the Twilight series, which I purposefully didn't read. I'm not a fan of vampires and the story line just didn't appeal to me, but The Host intrigued me. I had actually found the movie online, watched it and thought the plot was interesting. Which isn't that weird because I tend to like stories of aliens taking over human bodies (Stargate SG-1, anyone?... okay, maybe it's a little weird), but I didn't feel like buying the book and I forgot about it until I found it at the thrift shop.
The Host takes place on Earth after a race of aliens have taken control. These aliens are small, spidery kind of creatures that are placed into a human's brain stem and the "soul" take over the human mind and body. Normally, after the joining the human host disappears, but when a soul named Wanderer is placed into Melanie, Wanderer is overwhelmed with Melanie's emotions, thoughts, memories, and even hear's Melanie's voice inside of her head. At first, Melanie and Wanderer fight for control but as Melanie shares memories of her brother Jamie, and her boyfriend, Jared, Wanderer begins to develop feelings for them as well. Melanie convinces Wanderer to go find them, as they were going to search for more people of the resistance, humans who had been able to avoid capture.
When Wanderer/Melanie eventually find the resistance including Jared and Jamie, the group wants to kill her thinking that she is a spy who will tell other souls where the group is hiding. But Jeb, the leader of the group gives Wanderer a chance, gradually letting her contribute and help around the settlement. Over time Wanda, as Jeb calls her, gains the trust of Jamie and is able to share her side of the story. Jared is harder to convince, and when Wanda begins to receive romantic attention from Ian, another member of the settlement, it causes disagreements between Wanda and Melanie. With souls searching the area, tensions in the settlement, and Wanda knowing of way to safely remove a soul from the host without hurting either body, Wanda must decide if she'll remain in Melanie's body or sacrifice herself so that Melanie can be with the people they have both grown to love.
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed reading The Host. It took me awhile to get through the first few chapters while Melanie is trying to convince Wanderer to go find Jamie and Jared, but once they arrived at the settlement I couldn't put the book down. Literally, it took most of the day to read and I think only put the book down to eat lunch. Melanie and Wanda's struggles are believable and the characters themselves are likable, though personally, I related better to Wanda than Melanie, but that's probably just because the story is told from Wanda's point of view. It is a character driven story and really shows how different characters grow and mature as the story progresses. Wanda comes to understand the way humans function and wants to protect them. Melanie starts off as taunting voice in Wanda's mind but as the two begin to know each other and experience life together, by the end of the story, they are really good friends and Melanie pleads with Wanda not to sacrifice herself. I liked how life in the settlement was portrayed, it certainly wasn't glamorous, people were defensive and grouchy, even the romantic relationships were not rainbows and butterflies, but everyone worked together to survive. The Host was definitely much better than what I expected and I'll most likely read it again.