Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Pighearted by Alex Perry. Special thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 26 October 2021
Genre: Middle-Grade Contemporary
Charlotte’s Web meets My Sister’s Keeper in this charming story told from the alternating perspectives of a boy with a fatal heart condition and the pig with the heart that could save his life.
Jeremiah’s heart skips a beat before his first soccer game, but it’s not nerves. It’s the first sign of a heart attack. He knows he needs to go to the hospital, but he’s determined to score a goal. Charging after the ball, he refuses to stop…even if his heart does.
J6 is a pig and the only one of his five brothers who survived the research lab. Though he’s never left his cell, he thinks of himself as a therapy pig, a scholar, and a bodyguard. But when the lab sends him to live with Jeremiah’s family, there’s one new title he’s desperate to have: brother.
At first, Jeremiah thinks his parents took in J6 to cheer him up. But before long, he begins to suspect there’s more to his new curly-tailed companion than meets the eye. When the truth is revealed, Jeremiah and J6 must protect each other at all costs—even if their lives depend on it.
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For four years Alex Perry taught English Language Arts and reading to Houston middle schoolers ranging from 6th-8th grade, but she now lives in Arkansas with two large dogs, a husband, and one small baby. Alex is the author of PIGHEARTED coming fall of 2021 and is represented by Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content.
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: I have slightly mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I found it highly entertaining and don’t remember the last time I laughed so much (practically every other sentence) while reading. I also learned about chimera, animals (in this case unborn piglets) that have human cells injected into them for the purpose of growing human organs that can be used for those with terminal or life-threatening illnesses. On the other hand, I found the writing to be a bit choppy at times and it was hard (for me) to connect to the emotions in the book. I was sure that this story about a young boy with a heart condition and his pig with a healthy heart for him would have me shedding more than a few tears, especially towards the end, but something just didn’t click for me. Still, I think it’s a book many of the intended young audience will have a lot of fun with, and I also had a fun time reading it!
“Vengeance tasted better than burritos.”
This was a surprisingly action-packed and fast-paced story that had a lot going on! There are plenty of hospital trips but also more than a few ambitious escape plans, a couple of “running away” moments, food festival shenanigans, operation Rescue Ranch, and a hurricane. When we first meet Jeremiah, his heart has given out on him because he pushed himself too hard while playing soccer. Jerry acts out a lot throughout the story, and it’s what gets him and J6 into a lot of trouble, but it was easy to empathise with him. He just wants to live like every other kid, one without a heart condition, but he is weighed down by guilt for “not being (literally) good enough” and for being a burden because of how his illness has affected his family’s life. I thought the chronic illness rep was very well done!
“You need to treat yourself like how you would treat your friends. So, why are you so mean to J6’s second-best friend? Why are you mean to my brother? Why can’t you just chill out and not run away?”
“Jeremiah messed up constantly, but he was bravel and hopeful despite the fact that he’s only a human.”
I honestly didn’t think I’d have so much fun reading from a pig’s perspective before but my gosh, J6 really stole the show in this book! This little pig not only has a human heart but it’s quite possible a human brain too. He not only understands humans but is able to process the media he watches, albeit more than a little incorrectly at times, and his POV had me laughing quite often! His precocious observations delivered with a child-like directness was extremely entertaining! J6 wants nothing more than to live his best life (and not be made into a sandwich, thank you very much) and to have a family, specifically a brother. It took a little while for Jeremiah to realise that J6 was more than just your average little pig, and I enjoyed seeing them develop the brotherly bond and come to respect and love each other. It was definitely touching and gave my heart warm hugs!
“People are like pigs, except people get to decide what they do. Also, most of them are as ugly on the outside as they are on the inside. That’s why they have to wear clothes all the time.”
“The problem with being pighearted is that your heart can tell you exactly what to do, but you aren’t allowed to listen to it.”
Aside from these two, Jeremiah’s parents, sisters and two BFFs played a role in the story too. I wished that this aspect of the story was included a bit more—it would’ve been nice to get more meaningful interactions with the family and friends, especially with Jazmine because it’s clear they would do anything for Jeremiah. And the author poses an interesting question: how far would you go to save someone’s life? Jerry’s family would clearly go to all the lengths to ensure he gets to live a long and healthy life. Jeremiah’s friends, Adnan and Paloma each had a small role in supporting him, although Adnan had more presence. He often used humour to help Jeremiah take his mind off of his condition, and it was funny and sweet at the same time. I loved his upfront honesty too!
“She was the first one to greet me. I presumed she was the loudest of the family, so she must be their leader. The TV taught me that kids were the rules of their domain, and the parents served them like butlers. The smaller they were, the more power they had.”
“She could have squished me, but my legs know the queen’s safety comes first. She caught herself and climbed down. She had a whole bag of cookies in her hand.
She moved her eye brows up and down.
“Daddy’s secret stash.”
I’d never admired her more.”
Overall, this was a really cute middle grade read that I think is also suitable for all ages. It’s a touching story about a boy, his brother pig, forgiveness, and family. I also learned a lot about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and what it means to live with a heart condition, but also the trials involved in finding a perfect replacement. This was both an engaging and educational read! OINK 🐷
Have you read Pighearted or is it on your TBR?