Despite being way behind on my reviewing, I absolutely had to write about this one. I finished The Host late last night (in fact, I stayed up late just to finish it), and since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Wanderer, Melanie, and the other characters.

In The Host, earth has been invaded by a species of aliens who cannot live on their own, and must take over host bodies to live. They’ve already colonized other worlds, but earth has some of the best hosts–humans. Humans feel emotions and experience things like no other species that Wanderer, who has lived on more worlds than any other “soul” she knows, has been.

On earth, Wanderer is given the body of Melanie Stryder, a young woman who was part of the fading human resistance. This is expected to be a difficult body to inhabit, but Wanderer is shocked at Melanie’s strength. Most hosts just fade away, erased from their own minds, as the alien soul who is attached to their brains takes over. Melanie refuses to go away, though, over a period of long months over which it is believed that any other host would be subdued.

Why? Well, Melanie’s strong, of course, to have survived human for so long, but much of it is love, longing, and a promise she can’t break. Jared, the man she loves, and Jamie, her younger brother, were Melanie’s only company for a long time, and she loves them both too dearly to let an alien take possession of her without a fight. Melanie promised that she would come back to them, and so she will. She fills Wanderer’s thoughts with her love, especially for Jared, until Wanderer, too, is consumed with the desire to return to these people she has never met. It changes Wanderer, but will that change be her destruction or her salvation? And what of Melanie, who refuses to stop existing? And of Jared–the man they both now love.

I’m a fan of Stephenie Meyer‘s Twilight series, so, while my enjoyment of those books doesn’t quite reach the obsessive levels I’ve seen in some readers, I had some high expectations for this book. When I first started reading, I thought, this is good, this is interesting, but I wasn’t blown away. By the time the first 100 pages had passed (this is a really long book, over 600 pages), I was completely drawn into the story, completely involved and invested in the outcome, unable to put the book down even for things like, well, sleep. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but this book captured me and had me reading late into the night.

The Host is a wonderfully original, imaginative, and well-written novel that is different from Stephenie Meyer’s previous novels, and shows what a range this talented author has. While aimed towards adults, teenagers will love this book as well. I know I did. I cared so much about all of the characters, and what would happen to them all. Melanie and Wanderer inhabit the same body, a body with room for one mind, so there really is seemingly no hope for things to turn out well for both of them, but I couldn’t help but wish for it. I couldn’t decide who I wanted to win, if it came down to that! Conflicting emotions are felt by the reader of this book just as strongly as by the many wonderfully-drawn and believable characters.

By the time I finished, I’d laughed and cried and held my breath and felt a full range of emotions–appropriate, as the range of human emotions is one of the things Wanderer struggles to deal with as she comes to earth. This book actually reminded me a bit of the Animorphs series, but far more grown-up, in content and just in attitude–the world of The Host is light years away from black-and-white, and the Animorphs series, being aimed towards children, is relatively simple. Nothing here is black-and-white, just as nothing in the real world is as clear as we might hope sometimes.