The Host Summary
The alien invasion is over, and, uh, we kind of lost. Oops. The story opens with an alien parasite being implanted into a human body. They call the alien Wanderer, and Wanderer's job is to access the memories of her host body, Melanie, and tell the Seeker where to find more humans.
The thing is, Wanderer starts liking Melanie. More than that, she likes the way Melanie's memories of her hunky boyfriend, Jared, make her feel. Wanderer wants to find Jared and Melanie's brother Jamie herself. To make sure they're safe and keep them that way.
Deciding to betray her species, Wanderer sets off into the desert and uses Melanie's memories to find Jared and Jamie's hideout. Unfortunately, she's not very good at resource management. She guzzles through their water supply way too fast and passes out from exhaustion in the desert. Don't try this at home, kids.
Melanie's Uncle Jeb finds Wanderer/Melanie in the desert and gives them a drink of life-giving water. They revive, only to find themselves confronted with a dozen or so angry, alien-hating humans. With guns. Dehydrating in the desert is starting to look good after all...
She finds out that Jamie and Jared are still alive, but Jared is so not happy to see her. He greets her with a backhand to the face. Yikes. Well, it's not like Emily Post has an etiquette tip on what to do when your girlfriend has been taken over by an alien parasite. For all we know, this might be the preferred method of action. At least he didn't shoot her.
Jeb doesn't want Wanderer/Melanie dead, though. And since he's in charge, what he says goes. He puts Wanderer/Melanie into a tiny little prison cave, where they keep her fed and watered like a scraggly houseplant until they decide what to do with her.
Over the next few weeks, Wanderer slowly acclimates to cave life, and the humans kind of get used to her, too. Jamie doesn't think she's half bad, and becomes like a brother to her. They start calling her by the less creepy name of "Wanda." Wanda tells them stories of her lives on other planets. One of the cave dwellers, Ian, might even be falling in love with her. Life is fairly calm for a bunch of alien-resisting rebels.
Unfortunately, Walter, one of the cave dwellers, has cancer and is dying. On his deathbed, he mistakes Wanda for his deceased wife Gladys. She goes along with it, offering him comfort and compassion until he dies. This compassionate act endears her to Doc, the cave's flamenco dancer. Kidding, he's a doctor.
Not all the humans like her, though. Jared loves Melanie, but still kind of hates Wanda. Ian's brother Kyle hates her enough to try to drown her in the bathing cave. He doesn't succeed, but Wanda refuses to let the others punish him. She believes that most humans are ruled by their anger, and Kyle isn't any different.
One day, Jared and Jamie return from a supply run. It was Jamie's first, and he fell on his knife like a doofus. His injury becomes infected and life-threatening (worse part about the alien invasion/zombie apocalypse: no more penicillin), so Wanda convinces Jared to take her to a healing facility in Tucson. There, Wanda deceives the souls and steals their awesome drugs. (The legal, healing kind.) Her heroism saves Jamie, and everyone pretty much loves her after that. Except Kyle. He's still a jerk.
Seeing the benefits to having Wanda on their side, Jared takes her on a supply run. She can shop in alien-run stores without raising suspicion. They return from a supply run and discover that the Seeker killed a cave dweller and has been taken hostage.
Wanda doesn't want the Seeker to be killed. She believes she can save both the Seeker and the body she resides in. Wanda performs a surgical procedure safely removing the Seeker. It's much less gory than Doc's previous efforts, which always resulted in the death of alien and host. They put the Seeker in a cryotank and blast the Seeker into space. Don't let the moon hit ya on the way out!
They experiment on a few more body-snatched humans, sometimes saving the human, sometimes not. When Doc has practiced enough on the red shirts, Wanda decides it's time to give Melanie her body back. While Wanda is in her cryotank, Jared, Jamie, and Melanie go find a new body for her. They stick her in, and she's reborn!
Ian tells her he still loves her. Jared loves her, too... loves her to do his shopping. They take her on more supply runs, where they meet another group of humans. These humans also have an alien living amongst them, making us wonder how this alien/human co-existence will work out in the long term and setting us up for a sequel.
- A "soul" named Fords Dark Waters and his less colorfully named assistant Darren are performing a procedure on "a wild human. Still soulless" (Prologue.10).
- It looks like they're implanting a soul into this human.
- Fords makes an incision at the base of the human's neck, revealing the spinal column.
- They stick the soul, a silvery ribbon with "thin, feathery attachments" (Prologue.46), inside the unconscious human, where it attaches to the human's brain. Grooooooss.
- Once it's all squirreled away in there, Fords closes the incision, seals it, minimizes the scar and whispers into the human's ear: "Good luck, little wanderer, good luck. How I wish you didn't need it" (Prologue.58).
- After the implantation of the prologue, the soul wakes up inside her body, "twined […] inescapably into its ever breath and reflex until it was no longer a separate entity. It was me." (1.4)
- As she's struggling to adapt to all these new senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, uncontrollable desire to eat Cheetos—she experiences her first memory, the memory of her new body's last few minutes.
- The narrative shifts to present tense (and a sans-serif font) to show us this last memory, a memory of a woman pursued. She throws herself down an empty elevator shaft instead of letting her pursuers catch her.
- Back to the present: our narrator is thinking about what she just remembered (chapter title alert!) when she's hit with another memory. This one is brief, but powerful: a face.
- She doesn't know the face, but she knows the face, if that makes sense. (It doesn't, but it will, don't worry.)
- Also, even though she doesn't know what studliness is, she knows this man she's seeing is a Grade-A hunk.
- Right before someone comes into the room, our narrator hears a voice. It's a voice inside her head, and it's not her own. "Mine," (1.51) it says. Creepy!
- Our narrator fights back, but in a two-year-old-fighting-over-her-favorite-toy kind of way: "Mine […] Everything is mine." (1.54)
- Our narrator overhears (chapter title alert!) a conversation between a man and a woman. Their conversation gives us a little background and worldbuilding.(2) The man is a Healer and the woman is a Seeker. He's nice and gentle. She's a little shrill and scary.
(1) Our narrator's name is Wanderer, but she might choose a new name for herself.
(3) It seems there was a war between whatever our narrator and these people are and the human race. The humans lost, "outnumbered […] a million to one" (2.46). Yeah, those are bad odds.
- When the Healer and Seeker quit their bickering, Wanderer does a little introspection, thinking about all her past lives on different planets. In case she does want a new name, we have a suggestion for her: Shirley MacLaine.
- She also worries about that voice she heard. What if her new human host is so strong that it takes her over instead of the other way around?
- Wanderer probes around some more, looking for more memories, more clues. She finds some—a desire to find someone named Sharon—but she also encounters blank spots, "as if this brain had been damaged" (2.75)
- Before she can investigate further, the female voice, the Seeker, notices she's awake and speaks to her.
- Wanderer asks if she was put inside a defective host in order to gain information.
- She's told that her host wasn't damaged, but she was part of the human resistance (chapter title alert!). So, information might be a little harder to gather than usual.
- As Wanderer's vision becomes clearer, and she starts taking in all the colors in the room, the Healer tells her a story.
- Once upon a time, a soul called Racing Song was taken over by its host body.
- It started when Racing Song took on the body's host name, Kevin. It ended when the host tried to cut the soul from its body.
- Kevin was rescued and put into a new host: "Kevin is […] perfectly normal … aside from the fact that he kept the name Kevin" (3.73). (Sorry, all you Kevins out there.)
- Wanderer has been put into this body, instead of the body of a child, to gather information the Seeker really wants.
- When she asks why the Seeker wasn't put into the body instead, she responds, "I'm no skipper" (3.80).
- She must prefer to be Gilligan. Or Mr. Howell.
- Wanderer gives in, telling the Seeker all she knows so far: her name is Melanie Stryder, she was looking for her cousin Sharon in Chicago, and there's a mysterious pattern or map she hasn't figured out yet.
- Suddenly, a question bursts out of her: "Did they find Sharon?" (3.95). But Wanderer didn't ask this, Melanie did.
- Melanie is relieved that Sharon is still safe. She's also relieve that they didn't find him.
- When asked who "him" is, Wanderer says, "Jared is safe" (3.115).
- Maybe the face Wanderer saw back in Chapter 1 was this one.
- We shift into sans-serif present-tense voice for another Melanie memory.
- In this memory, Melanie is scrounging for food in a stranger's house because Jamie (we don't know who this is yet) is hungry.
- She pulls apples, baby carrots, and more out of a fridge.
- A man interrupts her scavenging and they fight, each one thinking the other is a body snatcher.
- When he shines a light into Melanie's eye, he realizes she's human... and kisses her.
- It's her first kiss! After she gets over this little squee! moment, she realizes that this guy is a total creeper and knees him in the baby carrot.
- She runs, but he chases her. He tells her his name is Jared Howe, and she's the first human he's seen in two years.
- Since they just might be the last man and woman on Earth, they smooch some more and decide to stay with each other forever.
- Seems logical.
- Jared goes to get his truck to take Melanie back to Jamie, who turns out to be her brother. Melanie thinks "I will wait here if it takes him all night" (4.108).
- Twue Love, Shmoopers.
- Wanderer wakes up from this memory and sends an e-mail to the Seeker, letting her know about Jamie and where he might be located.
- Needless to say, Melanie is not happy. She tells Wanderer that she hates her, but not having a body, she can't really do much else.
- Wanderer decides to have a serious sit-down talk with her Comforter.
- Okay, we're going to stop doing chapter title alerts now. But keep your eyes out, because they're all there.
- No, she hasn't totally lost it, talking to a down-filled blanket. Her Comforter is like her therapist, and her name is Kathy. Kathy the Comforter.
- They introduce many of the novel's themes: identity, community, compassion, and memory. We won't rehash their whole conversation here. Trek over the "Themes" page for more insight.
- At the end of their conversation, Wanderer is resolved to eliminate her body of Melanie: "I wanted myself. I wouldn't let what was mine be destroyed" (5.108).
- To conclude their talk, Kathy the Comforter tells Wanderer that she should try to make friends, because "Human hosts need interaction" (6.17).
- She also suggests that maybe someday they'll find Jared, stick an alien in him, and he and Wanderer can be together. Aw, wouldn't that be nice?
- Melanie, of course, is repulsed. Wanderer runs out of Kathy the Comforter's office, unsure of what thoughts and feelings are her own and which are Melanie's.
- The Seeker intercepts Wanderer on the street, almost as if she was following her (chap … oh, never mind). She's wondering if Wanderer has had any more progress on finding Melanie's relatives whereabouts in her memory.
- But Melanie has Jared's location locked up tight, and Wanderer can't get through.
- This chapter begins with Wanderer telling a bunch of students about her experiences on other worlds, like the fascinating and frightening Fire World. We can't do her story justice, so you'll just have to read it yourself.
- After Wanderer's lecture, the Seeker pulls her aside to tell her that one day Melanie will take over if she's not careful. The Seeker has been given clearance to be implanted into Melanie and to scour her thoughts on her own.
- Wander says she wants to talk to her Healer before deciding anything. She decides to drive to Chicago and see what Fords Deep Waters has to say about this.
- As Wanderer drives toward Chicago (the Seeker has already gone ahead to meet her there), Melanie shows her a bunch of memories about how awesome and sexy Jared is and how much she loves her brother, Jamie. They'd all totally die for each other.
- Wanderer feels the bond between them. She cries and drives (good thing she's not in traffic) and decides that she could never give them up to the Seeker.
- Wanderer tries to cook up a plan to protect Melanie (and Jared and Jamie by extension), but she's not sure if this is because of what Melanie wants or because she doesn't want to be known as a skipper.
- (Apparently a soul who "skips" in and out of bodies. You know, the alien equivalent of a serial monogamist.)
- She'd rather be Ginger. Or Mary Ann. We can totally see her as Mary Ann.
- As she's driving through the Arizona desert, she sees a familiar sight: Picacho Peak, which holds some sort of significance in Melanie's mind.
- Melanie opens up a few more memories to Wanderer. She shows them a cabin where Jared and Jamie hid; and she tells them that they might have tried to make it to Uncle Jeb's hideout, wherever that is.
- Wanderer decides to head for the Peak.
- Before trekking out into the desert, Wanderer goes into a soul-run convenience store and stocks up on water and snacks.
- She looks at a map (what, aliens don't have GPS?) and with Melanie's help, plots out a route to where Jared's hideout should be.
- Wanderer drives into the desert until nighttime. Afraid headlights would draw too much attention, Melanie convinces her to stop for the night.
- Before she goes to sleep, Wanderer worries that she's betraying her race by helping her host body.
- Yeah, "betrayal" sounds about right.
- Once they get far enough into the desert, they can't use the car anymore. Wanderer pushes it into a ditch so no one finds it.
- They have the boneheaded idea to hike through the desert in the daytime and sleep at night. In case you didn't know this: deserts, they're hot. And dry.
- Wanderer chugs water quickly, but they eventually find Jared's cabin.
- Inside the cabin, they find some stored water, crackers and that old apocalyptic food mainstay: Twinkies.
- Wanderer devours the saltines. Another bad idea: saltines, they're salty. It's in the name! Make you thirsty. Not a good idea when water is scarce.
- It's back into the desert. All those bad ideas from Chapter 11 catch up with Wanderer fairly quickly. She ends up dehydrated and, well, basically dying on the ground.
- She and Melanie lie there and think about death for a while until they pass out.
- They wake up when someone splashes water on their face. They're exhausted, dazed, and using a first-person plural pronoun to refer to themselves. Weird, right?
- When they're able to open their eyes, they recognize the man: Uncle Jeb.
- Uncle Jeb tells them that Jared and Jamie didn't make it. Then he leaves, telling them that he'll come back.
- He does return, with a small army of humans in tow. These humans are not happy that Melanie has been implanted with an alien. They call Wanderer "it" and "centipede" and point weapons at her.
- With all this hostility, she goes back to referring to herself in the singular first-person.
- There's a lot of arguing and slapping (of Wanderer. Ouch!) as the humans try to decide whether to just shoot Wanderer/Melanie or take her hostage.
- Most of the humans, including Aunt Maggie and some brute named Kyle, just want to shoot her and call it a day.
- Jeb's the only one who wants to keep her alive, and luckily he seems to be the one in charge. He blindfolds her and takes her away.
- Even though she's blindfolded, Wanderer can tell that they're leading her into a cave, deeper and deeper underground.
- When Jeb takes off the blindfold, they're in an underground cavern filled with almost thirty people. One of those is a handsome face she recognizes. Who could it be? Ian Somerhalder? We hope it's Ian Somerhalder.
- It's Jared, not Ian Somerhalder, whom Wanderer recognizes. Oh, he'll do.
- Wanderer reaches for Jared, but he slaps her with the back of his hand.
- Melanie doesn't seem to care that they've just been slapped, because she's too busy chanting "Jared's here, Jared's alive, Jared's here." (14.11)
- Even Wanderer is experiencing heart palpitations. We guess a good beating makes the heart grow fonder.
- In the crowd, Wanderer spots Sharon, Melanie's cousin. Yay! Sharon's alive!
- A tall, thin man pushes his way out of the crowd and approaches Wanderer. It turns out he's Doc. Nope, not one of the seven dwarfs, although at this point we'd be okay with calling Jared Grumpy.
- He asks Kyle and his brother, Ian, to carry Wanderer to away, but Jared stops them.
- There's a lot of family love in this book.
- It seems that Jared is reluctant to let Doc have Wanderer, since whatever Doc is planning will probably result in her death.
- The humans bicker some more, and Wanderer, still woozy from Jared's slap, feels faint.
- Just before she passes out, she asks Jared if Jamie is okay. He is! Yay!
- When Wanderer wakes up, she finds that she's been put into a tiny little alcove that's been made into a prison cell.
- With only Melanie to keep her company, there's a lot of internal dialogue going on, like "Why did Jared hit me?," and "Why are humans so brutal?"
- After a while, Wanderer falls asleep. She's woken up sometime later by the sound of footsteps.
- Kyle and Ian have tromped down to kill Wanderer in the middle of the night! Eep!
- Thankfully Jared is standing guard and fights them off.
- Wanderer/Melanie can't stand the thought of Jared getting hurt, so she throws herself through the tiny hole in the cave wall that serves as the prison cell's window. A window in a prison cell? Who designed this place?
- Caught in the fracas with Jared, Ian, Kyle, and Brandt (who we've never seen before), Wanderer gets punched in the shoulder and yanked around a bit. All that protecting Jared she wanted to do? Doesn't really happen.
- Before things get too rough, Jeb shows up and breaks up the fight.
- He says that Jared gets to decide whether Wanderer lives or dies. "Whoever the body belongs to makes the call" (16.51).
- (Wait, what? Why does this woman's body belong to Jared?)
- Jared can't make up his mind right away, so Jeb decides to stand guard outside Wanderer's cell while she sleeps.
- She wakes up to the smell of food on a plastic tray. Jeb has served her breakfast before he takes her on a tour of the caves.
- As they navigate the caverns, a lot of humans, including Sharon and Aunt Maggie, give Wanderer the hairy eyeball.
- The tour winds up as Jeb tells Wanderer that he accidentally stumbled into this cave in the seventies, and he's kept it a secret ever since, just in case. The moral of this story: crazy conspiracy theories pay off.
- The tour concludes in a section of the cave that's a combination sauna/bathroom/toilet. Um, make sure you're bathing in the right stream.
- Wanderer creeps off to do her business in the potty stream (we are not making this up), afraid that someone is going to jump out and push her into the volcanic river. Did we forget to mention that the caves are in a volcano?
- After potty time, Jeb takes her back to her prison cave, where an unexpected visitor awaits.
- It's Jamie! And he wants to have a talk with his sister... well, with whatever is inhabiting Melanie's body.
- She tells Jamie that Melanie didn't actually die, and that she (Wanderer) came from outer space.
- Before they can really get to know each other, Jared shows up and bullies them apart.
- Wanderer spends about a week in the cell, most of the time in complete silence as Jared quietly stands guard. Occasionally Jeb shows up and he and Jared bicker about whether Wanderer deserves more humane treatment or not.
- The only moment of interest in these boring days is when Jared eats Cheetos. Yeah, she must be bored, all right.
- To Wanderer, these Cheetos are manna from heaven: "the rich smell of fake powdered cheese rolled through my cave... delicious, irresistible" (18.58).
- They get a few additional visitors: Kyle, the jerk, and on a separate occasion, his slightly less jerky brother, Ian.
- Ian tells Jared that they spotted a Seeker in the desert. Wanderer knows from his description that this is the same Seeker that was tracking her.
- Furious, Jared climbs into the prison cave and demands to hear everything Wanderer knows about the Seeker.
- Ian comes between Jared and his interrogation of Wanderer, so Jared punches him.
- "That's twice" (19.7) Ian says. It seems Jared punched him during the altercation at the beginning of Chapter 16.
- Wanderer decides to talk, telling Ian and Jared that she's not helping the Seeker. In fact, she ran away from the Seeker.
- By the time Wanderer's done, Ian is feeling sympathetic toward her, Jared's still suspicious, and Wanderer, she's just tired. Nap time!
- She wakes up when Jeb comes and tells Jared he's needed for a supply run.
- Wanderer's heart is broken, partially because of Melanie, who is upset because Jared's abandoning her; and also because she kind loves Jared too. Even though he's been nothing but a jerk to her.
- Oh, and she's pretty sure he's leaving because with him gone, everyone else can just kill her and he won't feel guilty. But she still loves him!
- Jeb gets Wanderer to stop crying over Jared by letting her know that he'll release her from her prison cave as soon as Jared leaves. She's freed! But first, time for another nap!
- In the morning, Jeb takes Wanderer to the bedroom wing of the caves. Along the way, he shows her the gardens, where they are able to grow vegetables underground. They use a complex series of mirrors to reflect light from above ground. Neat!
- After that, Jeb puts Wanderer in someone's bedroom. It'll be hers until whoever it belongs to comes back.
- She's not exactly thrilled about taking someone else's room—although she seems remarkably sanguine about taking someone else's body—but Jeb says he'll deal with it when Jared returns.
- From there, it's to the cafeteria, just in time for GlowerFest. Everyone in the cafeteria stops eating and just glares at Wanderer. It's like Mean Girls times ten.
- As they continue their tour, Jamie, Ian, and Doc join them. Wanderer is understandably suspicious, but she doesn't have any choice but to keep going.
- They lead Wanderer to Doc's medical room, where she's afraid they're going to strap her down and cut her open.
- Much to our relief, that doesn't happen. Instead, Doc grills her about her species' medicine and methods of medical treatment.
- Afterward, they escort Wanderer back to her new room. Jeb gives Jamie the rifle and tells him to stand guard.
- Wanderer tells Jamie the story of the Spider world she lived on. During the story, she lets slip how easy it was for her species to take over Earth because humans weren't prepared.
- Jamie cries, and Wanderer comforts him.
- When Jeb returns, he wants to know Wanderer's name. She says that her species called her Wanderer, and he decides to shorten it to Wanda. Consider her named!
- Jeb and the newly christened Wanda talk about the differences (or lack of) between humans and aliens. Jeb wonders if the aliens "all aren't turning sort of human" (22.18).
- Wanda shares more awesome alien-planet stories with Jamie and Jeb, who decide that she should teach history to everyone in the caves. She's not so sure how well that would go over.
- After story time, Doc shows up to guard Wanda, and Jeb and Jamie leave.
- Just as Wanda dozes off to sleep, a mysterious shadow appears in the room. Gasp!
- The mysterious shadow isn't Alec Baldwin, it's just Jamie again.
- He tells Wanda that she's been sleeping in Jared's room. Scandalous!
- As they settle in to bed, Jamie asks Wanda is Melanie if still alive in there.
- She is, and she loves him. Jamie's gotten quite fond of Wanda, too. He tells her that he and Jeb are two of her friends now.
- Because of this, Melanie tells Wanda "I don't hate you at all. Not anymore" (23.96), and they have a little virtual hugfest that, if it were real, would look something like this. You know, because Melanie's all in her head.
- In the morning, it's time for chores. Jeb takes Wanda to help him with farming. It's GlowerFest 2: The Glowering. Wanda gets glowered (say that five times fast) at by Aunt Maggie and a whole host of people who are farming in the garden room.
- Ian doesn't glower, though. He joins them and helps out. Wanda does a little glowering of her own at Ian's bare, muscular back, glistening with sweat, as he hoes a few rows. Mmmph!
- Oh, where were we? That's right. Gardening. Nice, clean gardening. No innuendos here.
- After the field is plowed, they decide to call it a day. Ian makes a show out of saying, "See you tomorrow" to Wanda (23.186). Looks like she might have more than two friends after all.
- The day after farm day, Jeb escorts Wanda to the bathing room. She hasn't bathed since she arrived in the caves, and she looks pretty gnarly.
- After cleaning up, she bumps into Ian, who is waiting his turn in the bathing room. He apologizes, although Wanda isn't sure if he's apologizing for scaring her just then or punching her in the face about a week ago.
- As the days pass, Wanda helps out with chores—kneading bread, cleaning mirrors—in silence, because no one aside from Jeb, Ian, and Jamie will talk to her. Everyone else is merely tolerating her.
- Wanda's pretty sure that by the time Jeb starts sending her on unescorted errands, he's just trying to get her killed. But he reveals that he and Doc are trying to protect her, and get everyone else acclimated to her.
- "Strange world, isn't it?" (24.133) he says to her. "The strangest," (22.135) she responds.
- Weeks pass, and Wanda starts learning the names of all the cave dwellers, including Lily from Philadelphia; Wes, a much younger man interested in her; and Walter, a very sick older man.
- Wanda also learns that Sharon and Doc are in a relationship, but it's hard to tell because Sharon is so cold and distant toward him.
- At mealtime, Jeb, Jamie, and Doc ask Wanda tons of questions about her origins, the human-parasite relationship, her past lives, and more.
- It's all really detailed and fascinating and you'll just have to read it yourself. We'll meet you at the next chapter.
- Impressed with Wanda's storytelling skills, Jeb convinces her to start giving "classes" and telling her stories to anyone who'll attend. Once again, she tells some pretty cool stories that you should check out.
- Unfortunately, they're interrupted when the scouting party, including Jared, returns to the caves.
- They are beyond not happy at seeing Wanda socializing with everyone like a human rather than imprisoned like an animal.
- Kyle is so suspicious, in fact, that he shines a light on Ian to make sure he's not an alien, too.
- With Jared back in the picture, and still filled with hatred toward Wanda, there's another long fight about whether or not they should just kill her.
- Wanda flees the area, looking for a safer place to hide.
- Wanda flees to the safest place she knows: the prison hole.
- Unfortunately, it's filled with food. Real food, like "chocolate chip cookies. Potato chips. [And] Cheetos." (27.16) We did not italicize that. She italicized Cheetos on her own. We can feel the drool through the pages.
- Wanda resists tearing open bags of Cheetos and diving into them face first. Instead, she and Melanie have a long internal dialogue about whether they should try to escape or not.
- They're interrupted when Jamie arrives. He says he'll protect Wanda from whatever happens.
- It's time for him to prove it fairly quickly, as Jared shows up within a few minutes.
- There's some fighting, and Jamie tries to protect Wanda.
- Jared is not into that. He throws Jamie aside and then slams Wanda against the wall and into a stack of boxes. Oh yes, there's the Prince Charming we missed.
- Jamie honors his word, however, when he stands up and punches Jared in the face. Shpla-dow!
- Leaving Jared's nose a bloody mess, Jamie runs away. Jared follows. Wanda, tired from getting beat up yet again, falls asleep face-first in a bag of rice. Don't let the rice mites bite!
- Wanda wakes up to find that, in the middle of the night, Jamie had crawled into her prison hole and fell asleep. Um, ouch?
- When they wake up, they head to the cafeteria. Everyone's got a sullen look on their faces, except for Jamie, who's practicing his glowering on Wanda. Who died?
- Jamie makes Wanda eat, and then Ian pops up, all sweaty and dusty. He leads Wanda into the farm room, where they listen in to a conversation between Jared and Kyle. Something's happened, Doc is involved, and it's all Kyle's fault. What is?
- We're… unenlightened.
- Once eavesdropping time is over, Wanda and Ian have a heart-to-heart(-to-heart) when Wanda tells Ian that Melanie's consciousness is still alive inside her, and Ian apologizes for ever treating Wanda like an animal. Aw!
- They head back to the cafeteria and eat some more before Jamie heads back to class with Sharon.
- Ian and Wanda start talking sleeping arrangements, but they're interrupted by Jared, who's acting like a four-year-old or a psychopath or both when he calls out from down a corridor, "Come out, come out, wherever you are" (28.185).
- It's time for Jared vs. Ian and Wanda Round... what? Three? Four? We've lost count. Jared calls Wanda "it," Ian defends her, etc. etc.
- "Etc etc" is kind of how we feel about a lot of this.
- All this fighting gets Wanda/ Melanie all riled up. Despite what an a-hole is he is to Wanda, Melanie can only think, "Jared makes everything safe, everything happy." (29.87) Um, except for your bruised and battered face, but whatever.
- In fact, it gets Wanda/ Mel (we're not sure whose feelings are whose at this point) so hot and bothered, she just has to kiss Jared. How can you tell if he loves you so? It's in his kiss. Or so Cher says.
- The kiss ends up testing Wanda/Melanie more than Jared. Melanie takes control of the body and slugs Jared in the face, jealous that he's smooching on her body when she's not exactly present.
- But being smacked in the face makes Jared realize that Mel's still in there. What kind of dysfunctional relationship is this?
- Jared tells Melanie that he loves her, hoping she can hear him.
- Wanda feels so conflicted that she curls up into a ball in the corner and cries.
- By the time she emerges from her cave, Jared has left. Wanda falls asleep, and Jamie's waiting for her when she wakes up.
- Things slowly return to normal—Wands starts telling stories again, Jared and Kyle still glower at her.
- There's one complication, though: they tell Wanda that Walter's dying of cancer. It could happen any day now. Aw, how sad!
- Wanda goes to visit Walter in the hospital wing, where he calls her Gladys. Great. Just what we need, another identity crisis.
- Jamie explains that this Gladys person was Walter's deceased wife. Wanda plays along to comfort him until he falls back asleep.
- In the morning, he recognizes Wanda as Wanda, and he thanks her for keeping him company.
- Some of the other cave dwellers aren't as grateful that "the parasite" (31.103) was so close to Walter.
- They're a little on edge because a helicopter is flying around. The Seeker is looking for Wanda, and some people, like Kyle and Brandt, think Wanda is helping her somehow.
- Brandt wants to tie Wanda up, but Doc needs her to stay and comfort Walter.
- Like a helicopter parent, the Seeker hovers around but accomplishes very little before turning around and going home.
- Now that that complete lack of drama... er, we mean, EMERGENCY! is over, Doc reveals that they're planning to give Walter a double dose of morphine to euthanize him with minimal pain.
- She wants to be with him before he dies, but Doc encourages her to take a walk first to clear her mind. Off she goes!
- Wanda makes her way to the bathing room for a little toilet time when, you guessed it, she's ambushed.
- Kyle leaps out of the darkness and attacks her. They grapple for a few pages, slamming each other on rocks and slamming rocks onto each other. Kyle's plan is to throw Wanda into the hot river and pretend she fell in of her own accord.
- This plan backfires when the floor under Kyle collapses, and he falls instead. Karma's clearly had somewhere more important to be on this day, because it acted fast.
- Wanda screams as Kyle falls. Ian, Kyle's brother, shows up out of nowhere and saves them both before Kyle is swept away.
- Melanie, inside Wanda's head, is a little miffed that Wanda didn't just let him fall. She put their body in jeopardy trying to save him. We'll take Dumb Moves for $200, Alex.
- They take Wanda to Doc's office so he can look at her injuries, using the old I "fell on a rock" (33.109) excuse to protect her abuser. She still thinks he'll grow to accept her one day.
- Five guys (sans burgers and fries) carry an unconscious Kyle into Doc's cave.
- He wakes up shortly, sees Wanda is still alive, and grumbles "Aw, hell! […] It didn't fall!" (33.165). To which we say, aw, shucks. You didn't either!
- Jared punches Kyle in the face and knocks him right back out again. Good. We can only take conscious Kyle in small doses.
- Even though Jared defended Wanda by punching Kyle, he still insists on calling Wanda "it."
- She's not having it: "I am female … In my species, I am the one that bears young. Is that not female enough for you?" (34.15, 20). Then she explains her species' reproduction process. Good, glad we got that straightened out.
- After Wanda's sex-ed lesson, Walter wakes up. Just in time for his own funeral.
- They gather all Walter's best cave friends and euthanize him with morphine.
- He dies holding Wanda's hands. Um, where are our tissues?
- Wanda tries not to cry. Before she can really get the tears flowing, though, someone jabs her with a needle. Whoa, did Doc just Kevorkian Wanda, too?
- Nope. Whew. He just put her to sleep since she hadn't slept in a few days.
- She wakes up outside the caves at Walter's funeral ceremony. Everyone says a few words, including Kyle who uses Walter's death to make a statement about how human Walter was and how humans are so superior, etc. etc.
- Wanda gives a touching eulogy, and Walter is buried in the desert.
- They're still paranoid about Wanda knowing her way through the caves, so Wanda suggests they blindfold her before leading her back inside. Maybe they'll play Pin the Tail on the Donkey later!
- Instead, they stick her with some morphine again. Ouch!
- Wanda wakes up next to Ian in his cave room. Kyle's not there; he's being held in Doc's chambers until a tribunal that will decide his fate.
- Ian feeds Wanda a dinner roll and... wait for it... Cheetos! Wanda inhales those things like she's Snuffleupagus.
- Melanie tries to tell Wanda that Ian is crushing on her hard, but Wanda's a little naïve about human courtship rituals. Open your eyes! Cheetos are the equivalent of an engagement ring, girl!
- Once she's done licking the cheetle from her fingers, Wanda has to attend Kyle's tribunal.
- The cave dwellers are divided. Some think Kyle is an attempted murderer, other think it's only murder if he had tried to kill a human, which they believe Wanda most definitely is not.
- They have a vote. The majority vote in Kyle's favor.
- However, Jeb makes an ultimatum: "Anyone who tries to hurt Wanda again will not get a tribunal, they will get a burial" (35.143). (But Jeb will get all the comma splices.)
- Just to be safe, always let this old guy win at shuffleboard, okay?
- Now that a life-or-death tribunal has just concluded without an execution, it's time to play soccer! We guess if Kyle had been sentenced to death, his head would be the ball.
- They ask Wanda to play, but she's still feeling weak, so she sits out.
- Maybe it's not just the lack of sleep and morphine, but a chronic case of Bella Swan syndrome. Wanda promptly falls over as she makes her way to the sidelines.
- Jared catches her, and they have a heart-warming chat about Melanie. After, Wanda and Melanie try to work out their feelings about Jared, Ian, and the fact that they share one body. Do Abby and Brittany ever have these problems?
- After some soccer and granola bars, Kyle comes over to make an butt out of himself yet again.
- He tells Wanda that he's not sorry he tried to kill her, but he won't try to do it again because she saved his life.
- Um, thanks? Stick to goalkeeping, dude, and keep your mouth shut.
- Wanda watches some more soccer. When everyone is done, Ian and Jared fight over Wanda/ Melanie for a bit, practically tugging on her arms like it's a game of tug of war. Each man is trying to claim her.
- When Ian ends up taking Wanda/Melanie to his room, Jared gets even more possessive, saying to Ian, "The body and the person locked inside it belong to me" (37.126).
- Um, what decade are we in? We wouldn't even try to touch this with a 10-foot stick of feminism.
- Then he tells Ian that he and Wanda/Melanie smooched it up early. Cue audience gasps and oohs!
- Despite this, Ian wins because Wanda decides to stay in his room anyway because she feels wanted there. Jared just wants Melanie back.
- We just want these people to all grow up a little.
- Alone together, Ian and Wanda start touching and smooching. Things get complicated considering that Wanda's body isn't even her own (so the fact that Ian is attracted to her physically is weird) and Melanie doesn't want her body smooching Ian at all.
- After make-out fest is over, Jamie pops up and tells Wanda that Jared wants her to move in with them. Of course he does!
- Since that's what Melanie wants, Wanda agrees to it, further complicating this complex love trapezoid.
- It's been about four weeks since Wanda moved in with Jared and Jamie. The boys have gone on a supply run trip, so Ian takes this opportunity to swoop back in and romance Wanda.
- They play soccer with Lily and Wes, who are an item now. Wes heads off to get water and takes a really long time to get back …
- … because Jared and Jamie have returned! They've brought back a few unexpected things, one of them being a huge knife in Jamie's leg. He fell on it. (Bella Swan Syndrome?)
- They're also being cagey about something, so Wanda sneaks off to investigate. The whole time, though, she's worried about Jamie.
- The title of this chapter makes us a little nervous at what Wanda is going to find... and with good reason.
- As she approaches Doc's room, she starts smelling weird smells and hearing strange sounds.
- She discovers that Jamie and Jared brought back a person who had been taken by one of Wanda's species. They decided to try and take the person back, by force.
- Wanda walks in and sees a soul torn in pieces, blood splattered all over the place: "Shimmering segments of silver stretched in twisted, tortured pieces across the table." (40.31) Ew. Not only that, the alien they removed was just a baby.
- Horrified, Wanda screams and faints.
- When she wakes up, she just wants to be alone, away from the humans who just slaughtered one of her kin.
- Three days pass as Wanda sits in self-imposed isolation.
- After she's had a long time to think, Wanda goes to talk to Doc and the rest.
- They explain to her that they're only trying to get their people back. If they knew how to do it peacefully, they would.
- Wanda is kind of put at ease by this, but she doesn't have time to dwell on it further. Ian shows up and tells her that Jamie's leg is infected.
- She rushes to Jamie's side to talk to him. He wants to talk to Melanie, but Wanda can't find her inside her head.
- She's vanished! Where did she go? It's not like she could have walked away.
- In order to get a reaction out of Melanie, Wanda demands that Ian kiss her. Right now! Pucker up, big boy!
- Ian and Wanda lock lips, but it doesn't bring Melanie back.
- Jared sees them making out, and they tell him that Melanie is missing. Jared, always determined to be the better man, decides to take things into his own hands. Or lips, as the case may be.
- His forceful kiss wakes up Melanie, and she takes control of her body and kisses him back.
- Wanda fills Melanie in on everything she's missed.
- Namely, Jamie is sick, and they have to do something to heal him
- Wanda tries to convince the cave dwellers to let her leave, saying she can get medical supplies from an alien Healer's facility and use them to heal Jamie. They say no.
- But Jared, desperate to save Jamie, leads Wanda out of the cave that night. They get in his Jeep and drive to Tucson.
- Problem: in order to be healed, Wanda's going to need an injury. She tells Jared, "You're going to have to hit me" (43.179).
- Yikes, it's like The Host meets Fight Club all of a sudden.
- Not only does Jared whack Wanda's face with a rock, she stabs herself in the thigh to best mimic Jamie's injuries and figure out how to heal them.
- She limps into the Healing facility, where two trusting souls administer medical treatment while Wanda lies about it being a hiking accident.
- Watching carefully, Wanda learns how to use the alien medicine: Clean, Heal, Seal, and Smooth. Easier to spell than acetaminophen, and it actually works. Wanda is healed instantly.
- When Healers leave to get Wanda some water, she fills her knapsack with stolen medical supplies, grabbing some No Pain and Cool, for fevers.
- Then she sits, paranoid that they're going to come back with the Seeker and she'll be exposed. Tension mounts as she listens to footsteps approach. Click, click, click.
- As you can tell from the chapter title (gee, what about a spoiler alert, Steph?), Wanda has succeeded in her plot to get medical supplies. She doesn't arouse suspicion and no one tries to kill her (for once).
- She and Jared drive back to the caves. Even though Jared now trusts her, Wanda still insists on being blindfolded as they enter the caves. She doesn't want to rile everyone else up unnecessarily.
- Although Doc and a few others are hesitant to use alien medicine on Jamie, they have no other choice.
- Wanda administers the medicine, and waits a few tense beats until Jamie wakes up, good as new. What a relief! Another success!
- Everyone's thrilled that Jamie's not dead, and the fact that Wanda saved him raises her stock a bit.
- But Ian manages to find something to get mad at Jared about. He can't believe Jared let Wanda stab herself!
- As they fight over who should get to control Wanda, Wanda and Melanie ponder the complications of human love.
- (Um, it really doesn't have to be that complicated, guys.)
- After all the arguments and ruminations are over without any definite conclusions reached in either, they realize that no matter who's making the decisions, Wanda is a valuable member of the team: he can help them out on raids.
- They get ready to take Wanda on her first raid. Ooh, this should be fun and action packed!
- We take that back. The raid is actually about as exhilarating as a trip to the mall. That's right: Wanda's big contribution to society is, she's good at shopping.
- Their trip into parasite-ville is interesting to read though. The differences between the two cultures are interesting, with both Wanda and the humans experiencing culture shock. It's worth a read.
- On their way back to the caves, Jared and Wanda get pulled over by a police car. Okay, now things are getting tense!
- It will not be good if the cop finds out that Jared is a human.
- Even though she's not very good at lying, Wanda switches places with Jared, putting herself in the driver's seat, and gets ready to lie her way out of a sticky situation.
- It's not that hard. The alien cops are as trusting and naïve as the rest of them. He explains that they've been extra vigilant lately because someone's recently gone missing. Wanda thinks he's talking about her at first, but Melanie explains that her disappearance can hardly be considered "recent." Who could it be?
- The officer even gives Wanda some Awake when she says she must have been too tired to pay attention to the speed limit. It's like an alien 5-Hour Energy drink with all the benefits and none of the side effects.
- Wanda, Jared, and the rest arrive back the caves and start unloading their loot.
- They're interrupted when Jamie runs up in a frenzy. No, he's not excited for Cheetos: he reveals that one of the cave dwellers, Wes, was killed by a Seeker. Holy crap!
- We're not sure what they were doing outside, but Wes and Brandt both got shot by the Seeker. Brandt survived. Wes didn't. Turns out you kind of need the back of your head to live.
- The remaining humans managed to subdue the Seeker and take her hostage.
- Melanie and Wanda grapple with wanting to see the Seeker executed and also wanting to save her.
- Wanda's a little hurt that the Seeker isn't being held in a prison hole like she was. She has a whole room to herself!
- The Seeker is pretty shrill and annoying in general, but even more so when she gets into an argument with Wanda.
- Still, Wanda decides to reveal a secret that could save the Seeker's life. What could it be?
- Wanda decides to reveal a secret that could have big repercussions. It could not only save the Seeker, but it could bring Melanie back as well.
- She and Melanie grapple with this decision a bit, as they both know it could mean the death of Wanda. She would sacrifice herself to save Melanie.
- After making her decision, she tells Doc that she knows how to safely remove the Seeker from her human host body.
- Then she tells Doc she doesn't want to be shipped to another planet. She's grown to love Earth and consider it her planet. She wants to be buried here.
- Doc refuses, saying he's "sick of killing [his] friends" (50.128). Aw, he called her his friend!
- They don't have time to argue this matter. Wanda wants to get the Seeker removed ASAP. They go get Jared because they'll need to do a last-minute raid for a special supply.
- More Cheetos, perhaps?
- There's not much action in this chapter. Wanda watches a sunset. Then she goes with Jared to retrieve cryotanks, which are used to ship souls all over the galaxy. That's all they need to prepare for the soul-removal procedure.
- She also tells Jared how she learned to remove souls from the host bodies without hurting them. It's a fascinating sci-fi tale that we can't do justice. You'll have to check it out for yourself.
- With cryotanks in tow, Wanda and Jared return to the cave.
- It's operation time! Let's hope Doc doesn't touch the sides or the Seeker's nose might start flashing red and buzzing.
- He makes an incision at the base of the Seeker's neck.
- Wanda feels around inside the bloody incision, up to the brain stem. There, she strokes the soul's back until she finds a nobble joint about a third of the way down. When it's pressed, the soul will retract and safely let go.
- It works! Soul and body are separated. Wanda gently deposits the soul into the cryotank and seals it.
- Soon after her incision is cleaned and closed, the Seeker wakes up! She's human again. Wow!
- The Seeker's human host has regained consciousness. Her name is Lacey, and she's every bit as annoying as the Seeker. She's obnoxious and complains about everything. At least she doesn't have a gun.
- Anyway, now that Kyle knows that humans can be restored, he leaves the caves to search for his girlfriend, Jodi.
- Wanda and pals drive out to the facility where cryotanks are blasted off to different planets. They secretly load her on a rocketship to the Flower planet, which is over a century away.
- After that, they go to grab some Healers. They figure that if they can remove the soul and awaken the human inside, they'll retain some of the Healer's memories and help them make better use of their medicines.
- They manage to body snatch a couple of body snatchers and take them back to the caves.
- Wanda shows Doc how to remove a soul, and he successful performs the operation on the female Healer.
- The male Healer wakes up and sees what's going on. Rather than be removed, he kills his host from the inside, committing suicide.
- Yikes. What a way to go.
- Wanda spends a lot of time with the newly reawakened former Healer, trying to figure out what her real name is. She'd been possessed by a soul longer than the Seeker, so her mind is a little farther gone. You know, she's forgotten a lot.
- Wanda guesses all sorts of names, "Mary? Margaret? Susan? Jill?" (54.10)
- She calls her Stacey, she calls her Jane. But that's not her name. It's not her name.
- The person has a flash of recognition when Wanda mentions summer. But it turns out her name wasn't Summer; that's what the soul preferred to be called.
- The human still has Summer's memories and is really conflicted, both fearing humans and wanting to be as far away as possible from the aliens—including Wanda.
- Well, that basically went nowhere. Luckily, Wanda has another opportunity to recover a human consciousness: Kyle returns. And he has Jodi with him.
- Jodi, or at least the soul inside her head, calls herself Sunny now. She's scared to be removed from Jodi. For some strange reason, she really likes Kyle (she's the only one) and doesn't want to leave him, or this planet, behind. She's quite attached to him, you might say.
- But Kyle still wants Jodi back, so tough nuggets, Sunshine, you're going back into space.
- They argue about this for a while. Sunny wants to stay. Sunny has to go. Yadda yadda yadda.
- Finally, Wanda tells her, "I have to give my body back, too" (55.166).
- Unbeknownst to Wanda, she says this just as Ian comes into earshot. Oops. The cat's outta the bag now.
- This whole chapter is one big argument. Here are the main points.
- Wanda wants to be removed from Melanie.
- Jared kind of wants Melanie back, too.
- Ian wants Wanda to stay.
- Even Melanie has grown accustomed to having Wanda around. She wants her own body back, sure, but she doesn't want Wanda to die.
- The only way to solve this dilemma is with a life-or-death match of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
- Kidding. Jeb comes in and decides to hold another tribunal. Not as exciting as Rock, Paper, Scissor, but it'll do.
- Before the tribunal, Wanda finds out that they've already completed Sunny's removal procedure. She's cryotanked and ready to rocket, but Jodi hasn't recovered her memories yet. At the tribunal, they want to know what Melanie thinks. Wanda lies and says she wants her body back.
- "Liar! […] I can see you arguing with her" (57.35), Ian says.
- We imagine watching Wanda/Melanie argue with herself looks something like this.
- After lots of debate, they decide to sleep on it. Wow, these tribunals sure are efficient...
- Wanda goes to visit Jodi and the former Healer's body, who they're now calling Mandy. Okay, we have Mandy, Trudy, Jodi, Lily, Lacey... who's next? Bambi and Candi?
- Kyle's still trying to help Jodi recover, but he isn't making progress. He does make progress at not being a jerk, however, and actually apologizes to Wanda. We never thought that would happen.
- That night, Ian and Wanda tell each other that they love one another, forever and ever and always. It's so touching, we need multiple two-ply tissues.
- Ian falls asleep and Wanda sneaks out to find Doc and have herself removed from Melanie's body. Before she gets there, though, someone intercepts her in a dark tunnel. Yipes!
- The mysterious stranger in the tunnel turns out to be Jared. He tells Wanda that he's grown to love her, but he doesn't try real hard to stop her from killing herself or anything.
- She goes to Doc and he reluctantly agrees to remove Wanda from Melanie's body.
- He performs the procedure and everything goes dark...
- The last few pages of this chapter are blank, as though something is going on, we're just not aware of it because Wanda is unconscious, dying. Could her story be finished?
- This chapter begins with something we haven't seen in a while: a present-tense memory sequence. Although this one doesn't seem like it's Melanie's. In fact, Melanie is in it. So's Jared. It's like a family reunion! Is this what heaven is like?
- The reunion is over and heaven dissipates as Wanda wakes up.
- She experiences a lot of disorientation, trying to figure out what's going on. Jamie's there. And Ian. But things feel different, and Wanda has all sorts of memories that aren't hers. They belong to a soul named Petals Open to the Moon.
- Ian hands her a mirror, and she looks into it. She's in a different body, the body of a sixteen-year-old girl.
- It turns out that while Wanda was cryotanked, Melanie, Jared, and Jamie went out to find her a new body. Petals was evicted back into space and Wanda is the new leaseholder of this body.
- After Wanda regains all her senses, it's time for a new one: Ian plants a kiss on her right in front of everyone, and Wanda is glad she gets to stay on Earth.
- It takes a while for Wanda to come to terms with her newer, weaker body. Everyone coddles her like a child since, well, she is one.
- She has to fight to be a part of a raiding crew again. It takes a lot of time for Ian and Jared to acquiesce to her desires.
- Wanda says, "In the end, practicality had won out. I was needed" (Epilogue.71).
- Needed to go shopping.
- During one of their shopping trips, they encounter an unexpected development. Another group of humans.
- Not only that, but they also have a soul who's "Gone native" (Epilogue.106), a man named Burns, short for Burns Living Flowers. He's from the Fire World originally.
- Both Wanda and the humans are surprised to find more people almost exactly like them: "It's a strange world" (Epilogue.118).