24 IN 2017 #1: THE HUMANS BY MATT HAIG


Anyone who follows my blog, Twitter, Instagram or just listens to me in general will know that I adore anything which Matt Haig puts on paper. There are some writers who just really get through to you. Who speak to your soul and who's words make your heart feel heavy. Matt Haig's words do this for me. The first book I read of his was Reasons to Stay Alive, and as I've mentioned on this blog before many times, this was a book which completely changed the way that I viewed myself and the world around me. It's not often that I feel like a writer who I've never met completely understands me, but this is how I felt after reading Reasons to Stay Alive. Not long after finishing this book for the first time, my mum gifted me with another book by Haig: The Humans. I started reading it just a few days ago and finished it not long after. And oh GOSH. Was I wrong to think that Reasons to Stay Alive was as good as it could get. Ladies and gentlemen. This book. Will feed. Your soul.

The Humans tells the story of an alien who has been sent to earth to complete a mission and in doing so, takes on the body of a human male living in Cambridge. Having never encountered humans before, his first impression of them is one of great shock and disgust. After all, we are a species completely self-involved, full of vanity, hatred, inflated egos and a false sense of importance. However, the longer he spends on earth, the more his views of our world and the people who inhabit it start to change.

There are two aspects of this book which I completely adored. The first being, the way that it touched on mental illness and offered a new perspective to it. As the story is told by a character who has very little contextual understanding of our world, mental illness is shown in a very different light. The main reason for this being, the narrator hasn't really got an idea what mental illness is. It is normal to him. A regular human emotion. And so it becomes normal to us. Anxiety is just something which is dealt with. Not a reason for shame, but something which makes us more unique and, well, human.

This is something which I truly loved about The Humans. The way it made me feel normal and valid without seeming as though it was particularly trying to. Every page shares a reminder that it's okay to feel the way you feel. It's normal to be confused and slightly terrified of life, because why shouldn't we be? Being alive is an incredible miracle, but also a huge responsibility. I've never read a fiction book before which made me feel like I was doing okay. But this one completely did.

The second part of humans which left me feeling giddy was the eyes which the narrator views the world through. As an alien who has never visited planet Earth before, everything that the leading character sees and experiences on earth is new to him. He's like a baby, looking around, eyes wide with wonder, only he's intelligent enough to articulate that beauty to us.

This book reminded me of just how beautiful life is, how lucky we are to be here (even when it doesn't feel like it) and how completely okay it is to be you. It made me think of sunsets and waterfalls, the beauty in a human face, the small comforts of stroking a dog or peanut butter sandwiches. It made me consider how sweet poetry is and how music can uplift your soul. It reminded me of how unashamedly human the act of falling in love is. How it can save a person. How it can change a person. How it can make a person. And most importantly of all, it made me consider just how small and insignificant we as humans truly are. Just how small our mistakes are. Just how unimportant our wars are. A tiny planet full of individuals who see themselves as masters of the universe, but are really nothing more than specs. A mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

I am so glad I read this book. It had a beautiful story - one which made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. The Humans is so wonderfully written and so melancholic that it feels as though it captures the entire spectrum of human emotion is just a handful of pages. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who identifies as human.


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