The Human Zoo by Kasey Rocazella (2021)
NA Fiction | Dystopia
Jax Cooper lives a comfortable life, maybe too comfortable. Born into a powerful family, Jax is the son of the largest mogul in the world. As a journalist for The Globe, he takes on a unique, self-assigned piece: to investigate his father’s empire, The Human Zoo. Disguised as one of the animals and stripped of his identity, wealth, and eugenic luxuries, Jax is challenged by what it means to be human when he meets Priya.
Born into the zoo’s captivity, Priya has only known two things; she does not belong here, and she will do anything to escape, but freedom always seemed impossible until an unusual new animal, Jax, arrives.
A gripping investigation turned life changing, Jax is forced to make a decision. Will he risk dismantling society by exposing who—or what—being an animal means . . . or succumb to his only living protection, his family’s empire?
Goodreads | Amazon
Expected Publication Date: May 4, 2021
My early thoughts on The Human Zoo…
…So what are my final thoughts?
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the author for submitting this book for review!
“Honest babble about books” is this blog’s tagline so let me be honest. For those final pages where dramatic music began surging in my head as my eyes devoured each word and action printed across the paper, I wanted to give this book a one-star rating so effing bad. Why? Because it made me feel so many damn emotions, it twisted me, wrung pain from my heart and tears from my eyes, it held me captive with a beautiful story in one hand and cruelty in the other. This all probably sounds like a reason for a high rating, not a low one, and you’re right which is why the stars I’m giving this book are what they are.
This was one hell of a book and I will never forgive it even as I reach towards it to read it again and recommend it to fellow readers. But that’s exactly what makes a good book, isn’t it? A book that can affect you so strongly? The story within its pages is incredible and yet to watch it burn would be cathartic. And in a way I feel like that was part of the goal of this book – to shock, to explore, to wonder, to worry, to take truths and craft them into something new to stake our hearts again with history, zapping us back in line as if wearing shock collars. This book requires you to stop and process. This isn’t a book you simply finish and toss aside.
Am I frightening you from reading this book? I hope so. I hope not. This book…even when I enjoy a book, I don’t often get particularly emotional. This book, however, managed to pull me in and leave my heart yearning for something not offered. I’m not going to forget this book any time soon and it will be going on a list of books to recommend. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, dystopia, literary fiction even, then pick up this book. If you’re a fan of books like 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World…pick up this book.
If you’re a fan of those books then you will understand what I meant earlier, about how much I love/hate it yet don’t for one moment regret reading it and will be reading it again. It’s the type of story that alters a person. I ate ice-cream before settling down to read the final quarter and now I wonder how I could ever have been smiling in the spring sunshine with sweetness chilling my tongue. I’m writing this review on the heels of turning that last page and I’m stuck, stuck in chaotic thoughts, stuck processing. This book is rolling around in my head screaming, laughing, and continuously twisting my insides. Again, am I frightening you from reading this book? I don’t care. Read it.
I’m going to forcibly shove these erratic emotions to the side for a moment and try and write a bit about the story, the characters. Wish me luck.
The book is told in two alternating POVs, which I think worked perfectly for the story.
Priya is a born captive/”zoo animal” and Jax is the wealthy son of the zoo owner. Both are human, both are bright souls, and you will fall in love with them. Priya is fierce, loving, protective, wild, strong, funny…she knows how to survive, how to keep her head down, and yet she also isn’t afraid to fight back, to help, to run, to call herself by her name instead of the animal identification number tattooed to her leg.
Jax is privileged, handsome, strong, kind, smart, and as a reporter he decides to go undercover as an animal at the zoo to write his next big article. He goes in with a kind-heart, albeit tainted by indoctrinated beliefs, and from the moment he opens his eyes in the assigned animal enclosure his entire outlook on life is challenged. The day Priya and Jax meet changes everything for them both and, with any luck, for the world.
Even zoo keepers in real life with actual animals in the enclosures are treated with more respect and love than what the human “animals” endure in this story and it’s difficult to stomach yet Priya’s bravery and strength somehow make it bearable…for a while. And isn’t that the way things so often go? We humans have a talent for treating one another worst of all. I love the psychology explored in this book. We get to see, along with Jax, how Priya creates a family with the others, how she bonds with a life-long best friend, how she displays charity by helping to protect and feed the kids, how she compares and contrasts to the other “animals”, how she displays humanity at its finest. Through Jax we get to see hope, change, forgiveness, as well as witness the world beyond the zoo and just how inhuman the world around them has fallen. It’s the scariest riddle we have to ask ourselves every day: Are we still human? What makes us human in the first place? Just check the news or hop on social media and you’ll wonder.
The book felt like the perfect length, it doesn’t drag and it doesn’t rush. There’s action, romance, villains, hope, family, friendship, humor, defiance, and an ethical depth that keeps you on your toes. Justice, however, receives a very small sliver of the pie, and most of that portion is made up in my mind because otherwise I really just might scream like I did with Animal Farm, 1984… Gosh this book was fantastic even if my warring emotions make you wonder.
Look, I won’t reveal much more about the story itself. There’s a zoo and it’s for people. There’s a boy and a girl who fall in love. There’s a hope, there’s a tragedy, there’s a defiance, there’s a warning and a lesson.
Are you in a zoo? Are you a zoo keeper? Or are you one of the visitors, the watchers, the fuel? Why and what are you going to do about it?
Horrifying, gripping, beautiful…I was hooked from the very start. The Human Zoo is unforgettable as it takes the question of humanity and spins it into a powerful “What if?” that will at first have you dismiss, then pause, then clutch desperately to the face in the mirror saying three important words: I am human. Prepare to soar, prepare to cry, prepare to unleash a battle cry, but most of all prepare to think and and open your eyes.
Just found out that there’s going to be a book two!! 🙌 Now I’m even more adamant that you should check this book out!
Meet Kasey Rocazella!
Kasey Rocazella is an up-and-coming author, poet, and creative mind from Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in economics. Kasey has a proclivity for observation and social dichotomies which she brings together in her first novel, The Human Zoo.
2 thoughts on “The Human Zoo”
This review left me in a pool of emotions. Thank you so much for your words, and honesty. I am in awe of you as a reader, and a writer.
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I am so glad I read your book! I can’t shut up about it.