I Was an Alien Cat Toy by Ann Somerville
Wow. Just wow. Although it has a pretty corny/awful title, this book is 99% excellent. The characters are deep, well developed and touching. The plot is just as well developed, thoroughly explored, and amazing. It takes a while to progress from A to B, but the journey was worth every word. The writing was well done, moving me to tears at two separate occasions.
What I liked
Characters and Plot. I'm grouping these together because I could probably rave on and on. The characters weren't perfect, they made mistakes, but they changes and grew and were overall good people (...err..cats?). Aside from the Big Bad, most of the characters had good qualities and bad ones, or good qualities that worked poorly for another person. AKA, they were realistic. They were living, breathing and caring. They didn't leap off the page, they molded the pages into a world that they wandered freely. The plot was just as masterfully constructed, following a natural flow of events and never making characters act outside their appropriate behaviors.
Language. Somerville realized that these two beings would not speak the same language, not have a similar alphabet or any similar grounds. Yet she took the time to have them learn one another's language, developing each element carefully. It was thorough without being boring. I, of course, adored this, but it may be a bit overwhelming for others.
Culture. The world the author created was well developed and alive. Aside from one or two moments where I think the content may have contradicted itself, everything was amazingly detailed and consistent. I give her props for creating a world that is so different from what we've experienced, and then making it feel real.
What didn't work
The ending. I wasn't particularly happy with it. The way she set things up makes the ending fit and work, but the one loose bolt is that we never really feel connected to Jeng. While we know he is our hero's lover/boyfriend, and he is mentioned periodically throughout the book, the reader never connects with Jeng, never forms a strong emotional bond with him as we have with Gredar. So when Temin chooses to return home with Jeng, we feel betrayed. Of course it is the better choice; he's returning not just to his lover but to his family and a world where he fits in. It still depresses me.
I personally was hoping it was Jeng that had attempted to kill Temin and kept returning to make sure the job was finished. I wanted Temin and Gredar to stay together after finally making it over so many hurdles.