Berg’s Book Club: Pig Heart Boy

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Bookpost RatingI finally managed to read something! A sign that teaching has finished and my coursework are slowly coming to an end. I think Berg is pleased, he’s been complaining in my ear, begging me to read more books.

So this week, I read Pig Heart Boy. I’ve been reading a lot of ok-poor books recently and wanted to read something I’d love, so I went for one of my favourites on my Malorie Blackman list—Pig Heart Boy.

This is the second time I’ve read this book and it still has the same effect on me as it did the first time around.

Here’s a short synopsis:

Cameron is thirteen and has a heart disease, he knows he has a short time to live and so tries to spend as much time with his school friends as possible. He is given the opportunity to be the first person to recieve a heart transplant donated by a pig and has to decide if it’s worth it.

My friend at It’s Me Lizzie stated on their blog that the longer the synopsis on good reads, the worse the book is. This has a short one, so an indication of a good read (sorry).

As I said before, I love Blackman books. I think she is very good at addressing serious issues like racism, single parent-hood and issues that face young children. Pig Heart Boy is no different because Cameron is a disabled character.

He has a heart disease and is on the verge of death, his only hope is that from a pig. Unlike his friends, classmates and strangers, he isn’t disgusted by the idea of having a pig’s heart inside of him because he thinks it’s his best chance of being normal. This means that Cameron identifies himself as an outsider but doesn’t want to be.

However, like all good outsider books, he accepts himself the way he is in the end. At first, he thought to do that would mean to stop trying to prolong his life. Instead, he realised, with the help of his nan, that he can fight for his life and accept that he may be different but it doesn’t make him less of a person.

The story is really well written, realistic, believable and… made me tear up. It’s powerful through plot and character, with Cameron and his nan being the strongest two characters.

The only part that annoyed me was the occasional switch between British and American spelling. The word ‘mom’ was spelt ‘mum’—which is fine because it is set in the UK, where the majority of the cities and town use that spelling—but ‘realise’ was spelt ‘realize’.

No other word is spelt the American way and the author is British so this seemed to leap from the page for me.  It’s only a small thing though.

Characters

Cameron:

Cameron is the protagonist of the story. He wishes to be normal and accepts the heart transplant but this causes Cameron’s behaviour to change.

When we are first introduced to Cameron, he often has to take the stairs in stages and has to sit out of activities like swimming that his friends participate in. He’s excited (and nervous) about the heart transplant and tells his best friend Marlon everything despite the doctor telling Cameron and his parents not to tell anyone. Marlon blabs and Cameron gets into the press.

When Cameron returns to school, he is arrogant and self-assured. He gives Marlon the cold shoulder, talks down to the school bully and spits in his crush’s face for keeping her distance because of his new heart. However, his parents and nan are there to guide him through right and wrong and he quickly regrets these mistakes.

He also becomes disgusted with himself because of how some kids are treating him at school, because of the hate letters he is receiving and because of an assault by a stranger. However, when his heart starts to fail again, he accepts himself and his difference.

Nan

Nan is Cameron’s mentor throughout the story. She guides him in his friendship, behaviour and actions in a way his parents can’t. She doesn’t badger him or nag him, instead, she offers advice and encourages empathy. Her character doesn’t really change, but she becomes more livid throughout the story. I love this character.

Mrs and Mr Kesley. 

Mrs and Mr Kesley are Cameron’s parents, they have a rough patch through worrying about Cameron. Mr Kesley applied for Cameron’s heart transplant without telling Mrs Kesley and so they argue. However, Cameron’s mom also keeps a secret from Mr Kesley.

Cameron’s mom is against the heart transplant at first while his dad is saying it’s the only way to save him. She reads a lot about the proceeder online but they both agree it’s Cameron’s decision.When Cameron is offered money for his story, his parents rip it up and put it in the bin, Cameron is upset about this but his parents explain their reasons.

I love how despite their differences, they don’t lose track of what is really important. Cameron. They make sure that Cameron is on the right track and while he is well, they accept no nonsense from him. You don’t see much of their parenting while he is unwell, but I assume the same applied, they just didn’t get him to do anything as active.

Marlon

Marlon is Cameron’s best friend, the one Cameron shares secrets with. When Cameron was having the transplant Marlon looked for advice from his parents but his parents sold the story. They do have reasons for doing this but whether it’s forgivable is up to the reader to decide. Despite this hiccup—Marlon stays loyal to Cameron and looks out for him throughout the story.
Dr Byron and Dr Ehrlich

Dr Byron and Dr Ehrlich are behind the idea of pig heart transplants. They both pop into the book as and when needed but their work is kept a secret so you never really learn much about them.

However, I suspect that Dr Ehrlich lived in Germany and had recently moved to England because when she picks Cameron up, she uses kilometres to measure distance but the lab is set in Yorkshire.  I did some research into her name and there was once a German physician and scientist, Paul Ehrlich who worked in the same field: immunology. Just type his name in Wiki if you’re interested.

I think the name was really thought out and researched. I assume the secretness of Byron’s work is linked to the mysterious nature of Lord Byron, who was around at the time Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein.


Overall, the story is emotional and touching. I teared up as the story came to a close and I felt for all the characters. Blackman is a good writer when it comes to everyday issues and the outsiders. Her plot is strong, as are her characters and every word used seems to have some power behind it.

I would really recommend picking up a copy of this book, or any of her books except for Trust Me. She jumped on the vampire wagon there.

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Hope you enjoyed this review as much as Berg and I have enjoyed writing it and see you next time for the next Berg’s Book Club!

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