Review Blog

Jul 04 2011

Pig boy by J. C. Burke

cover image

Woolshed Press, 2011. ISBN 978 1741663129.
(Ages 14+) Highly recommended. Expelled from school on his 18th birthday, Damon needs a gun. Hearing that the Pigman's assistant has been sacked for doing drugs, he searches out this reclusive Yugoslavian man to suggest that he be taken on. At least, he thinks, he will learn how to use a gun. While working for this strange bullish man he learns more than he bargained for, he learns about himself. First though, he needs to apply for his shooter's license, a feat in itself, allowing for the incident in year 10 in which he was found with a gun near a girl's dormitory on a school camp. But this is just one of the things Damon must do. His list includes many things and when the police later discover his lists, they tie threads together; many lists of kids and adults he would prefer dead, lists of those who have bullied him, the list of things to do to learn to use a gun, the gun in his wardrobe and finally, the liaison with the Pigman.
Through his sometime wandering account of his life thus far, we hear Damon explain just why some of these things have happened, why his home town, Strathven, has turned against him and why he is viewed with suspicion, even by his own mother and his best friend.
Tied together with amazingly real accounts of catching and killing pigs, then long slow nights spent around a campfire, the story is taut and captivating, as we learn to trust the big Yugoslav, Miro, as does Damon, seeing in him the father he has never had, a mentor who can see more than he realises, because he has been there before him. Miro, a refugee from the Balkan war of the 90's, reveals pieces of himself toDamon, strengthening all the time the argument that war is not the way to solve problems, that taking to arms is no solution.
The novel leads us to think, as do the police, the community and Damon's mother, that he is planning a school massacre, like the one on his favourite computer game, and he is thrown into jail.
A page turner which leads the reader to a thought provoking non conclusion, the tale of the long term effects of bullying, exacerbated by poor parenting skills and a community which has turned a blind eye to the bullying behaviour of its wealthier members, this is a telling story with a rich background enticing young adult readers, especially boys to read to the end.
Fran Knight

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