Shirley Marr's Reviews > Pig Boy

Pig Boy by J.C. Burke
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's review
Aug 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: aussie-ya
Read from August 16 to 22, 2011

Damon Styles is not a nice boy. In fact he is so cocky, so sure that he can blackmail the school Principal over his exceptional talent in English that he finds himself shocked when he gets expelled. Damon Styles is 18 years old, unpopular and obese. His classmates call him "Damoink" and his single-parent mother "The Sow".

From the start I had to work extremely hard to establish a foothold with Damon. Most novels I've read featuring anti-heroes make up for the narrator's complete lack of morals and ethics by giving them a Dexter-like-charm to establish rapport with the reader. Damon doesn't possess any charm at all. He's secretive to everyone, even to the reader. He's got something hidden in his wardrobe that requires a padlock, he makes lists upon lists of people's names, he youtubes videos on how to use an AK-47 and for some reason he's intent on getting his gun licence renewed and to buy a rifle even though he’s scared of shooting.

What he plans to do appears obvious and as a reader we are given no other options than to judge that yes, the bullies that target Damon are indeed disgusting and when he gets his revenge on them, it won't be too glum a day, actually. During his memories and current episodes of bullying, I feel sympathy for Damon... but then he'd go and do something like physically push his mother into a cabinet.

Around 1/3 into the book I wasn't sure I wanted to continue. The book moves excruciatingly slow (not helped with Damon suffering "same story syndrome" occasionally) and I wasn't keen to suffer through what I presumed would be Wake-In-Fright-esque escalated violence when Damon finally got an apprenticeship with Miro, "The Pig Man" (a Wolf Creek like character) who was going to teach Damon how to shoot... then presumably the book was going to limp to the pre-calculated ill-fated ending the book was hinting at.

I am so glad that I didn't give up. Once we meet The Pig Man, the book starts to build and the last quarter of the book - I couldn't put it down. I physically had to go into another room as my husband was trying to sleep and there was no way I was putting this book down.

This is no lame “high school shooting themed” Jodie Picoult paint-by-numbers.

What is amazing is that the novel very subtlety allows you to believe one thing and then realistically spins it around so that you end up seeing things very clearly - the truth from Damon's point of view, leaving you with a level of shock that you so very nearly gave up on him and condemned him. By the end I was crying and I was so very sorry that I almost gave up on the novel ‘cos that itself felt like an act of betrayal!

The Pig Man is awesome. The ostracised pig-hunting European who the town is shit scared of, ends up stealing the show. Like Damon's character arc, Burke has this amazing way of presenting a grotty character as the world sees them and then revealing their heart. I think this is one of the best representations of a foreigner I have read, free of any heavy-handed stereotyping and/or borderline racism and big on love like a Markus-Zusak-treatment.

I won't give away how the story pans itself out, or what happens between Damon and Pig Man, but the ending, where the truth about what Damon has in his closet is revealed, is amazing, a relief. The last line poetic and bitter-sweet.

Not a book for everyone as it is gritty, turbulent, dead in parts and plain hard work at times. Damon doesn't change. He still has anger management issues and will push something over when he gets mad, but in the end I am really gunning for him and I wish him well (if not outright love him). It’s worth it to see how he finally comes to a sense of well, peace.

The novel leaves me with the same feeling. Strangely hopeful and at peace.

ps - I love the cover. I love the subtle and classic masculinity of it without it being testosteroned-up like one of those covers that scream "Look at moi! Imma Boy Book!"
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Reynje (new)

Reynje Oh my gosh, this review is so brilliant! And lol @ your Jodi Picoult reference and p.s.

message 2: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic What Reynje said ^^! Gorgeous review :)

Shirley Marr aww thanks girls :) just glad to be among such stellar reviewers that is all

message 4: by Garry (new)

Garry Hey, what they said... really good review, and it's made me want to buy the book. Thanks, I really appreciate it when someone puts as much effort into their reviews as you have here.

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