2-in-1 Review: I Am Not Joey Pigza & The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos

I Am Not Joey Pigza (Joey Pigza, #4) by Jack Gantos | Goodreads

Title: I Am Not Joey Pigza

Author: Jack Gantos

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 224

Rating: C+

Recommended?: No

WARNING: THESE MINI-REVIEWS CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.


I just want to start out by saying I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series (Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key and Joey Pigza Loses Control) and Joey is one of my favorite middle grade MCs. He’s troubled but endearing and he brings so much heart to these stories. That said, the third book in the series was… okay I guess? And it’s rapidly gone downhill since then, with Joey becoming a character who has no agency in a toxic and depressing family situation. In this book his dad (a poster child for some kind of personality disorder, I’m not sure what) shows up again with a new identity and he and Joey’s mother badger him into going along with it, even changing his name and making him get rid of all his stuff. They start a restaurant and Joey goes to a new school where the teachers haven’t gotten any first-hand experience of his severe ADHD and behavioral problems. You know the dad is going to set this whole thing up and then duck and run so there are no surprises in this book. I mostly felt really angry at Joey’s parents and wished there was at least one adult who was really willing to support him.

Amazon.com: The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza (Joey Pigza, 5):  9781250068071: Gantos, Jack: Books

Title: The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza

Author: Jack Gantos

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 160

Rating: D

Recommended?: No

I really wanted Joey Pigza to get a better send-off than this. He deserves so much better.

In this last book in the series, the ADHD sufferer and chronic people pleaser Joey has a little brother and is forced to take care of him by himself when his mom checks into a mental health facility. To make things worse, his dad (unrecognizable after his botched plastic surgery from the last book) is trying to kidnap the little brother and Joey is doing everything he can to keep the family together, while coping with his own hyperactive tendencies. Okay, so I’m going to get into some serious spoilers her. First, Olivia from What Would Joey Do? comes back and I can’t stand her. She’s mean and abusive and if Joey were the girl and she were the boy her behavior wouldn’t be considered acceptable. Her being blind and having a family of Jesus freaks isn’t really an excuse. In the first book, Joey learns to manage his ADHD and gets put on patches that help him do better at school. In the second book, he sees his dad’s true colors. What does he learn in this book? He’s just a victim, and his abuse and neglect he suffers is played off by the author and NOTHING GETS RESOLVED. I pretty much hate this book but I still recommend the first two books to both kids and adults. I will just pretend this is part of a different series.

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