Pig-Heart Boy is considered a modern children’s classic, written by the now Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman.
It was reading this book yesterday, that inspired the post before this one, about being behind the times in reading books that make literary waves when they’re published. I remember Pig-Heart Boy being published, and lauded. I remember when it was made into a children’s television series. I saw copies and copies streaming into school libraries.
I finally got round to reading it yesterday.
I have to say, much like The Demon Headmaster I reviewed a few days ago, it deserves its title of classic. It is a very well written, very powerful, thoughtful book that is utterly absorbing to read and is a book I know I will think about for a long, long time.
It tells the story of Cameron Kasey, a fourteen year old boy whose heart is giving up on him. Two years previously Cameron contracted a virus that damaged his heart beyond repair. It has been slowly failing, and at the start of the story Cameron finds out that he has less than a year to live.
Then his father discovers a Dr. at the forefront of medical science who is pioneering transplants from animals into humans, and who is looking for people to try his heart transplants on. The catch is that the heart you will receive comes from a genetically modified pig.
Cameron’s father wants to try it. Cameron’s mother is set against it. Cameron is unsure.
The story tells how Cameron decides to go ahead with the transplant and what it does to him, his family and his friends. It shows the sometimes unbearable strain a condition and decisions like this put on a family unit. It shows the reaction of the media and strangers and how what is an intensely personal and difficult decision and journey to make can be skewed and irredeemably altered by external forces. It shows how we face fear, how we face death, how we have to grow up, even though it can be very, very hard.
This is a challenging book. It asks big questions. It demands emotional commitment from the reader. It is, at times, an incredibly exhausting read. It made me cry. I’m just warning you.
I loved it. I literally could not put it down.
This morning I was thinking about children reading it. Who would I recommend it to? I feel that the dilemmas it poses, he things it asks us to think about are perhaps to sophisticated for younger readers. It’s not that I don’t think they could cope with the language. They could. I think they need to be older to appreciate what the book is talking about in wider terms.
As such I would recommend it to boys and girls aged 11 and up. I see no reason why this couldn’t be taught all the way through high school, given the sort of questions it asks. It would be perfect to link to subjects around genetics, ethics and even some areas of religious studies, as well as animal rights, a topic which is covered in the book.
If you have read this already and liked it, I would suggest reading Eva by Peter Dickinson