The post on Rules got me thinking about other books that I’ve read that touched me deeply. I think that by far, Jack Gantos‘s Joey Pigza series, tops the list.

We meet Joey in Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. Joey is a boy with something along the lines of ADD or ADHD, I’m not sure which and I don’t think the book ever tells us. But to be honest, his diagnosis is the least of his problems. Joey’s mother and father are not part of his life at all. He lives with his grandmother who is borderline abusive, and he isn’t receiving the treatment he deserves. This book made me cry, more than once. Even after his mother comes back, things just don’t go well.  Joey does end up getting some help, but unfortunately it takes a classroom accident to finally get him what he needs.

Joey gets to visit his father for 6 weeks in the second book, Joey Pigza Loses Control. Carter is not an easy person to live with and he makes things even harder for Joey by taking away his medication. Joey discovers he enjoys pitching in baseball but having your dad as coach is never ideal.

Joey’s life is completely turned on it’s ear when his dad starts coming around and his mom starts chasing his dad with a broomstick. Grandma is living with him again and she’s sick, the dying kind of sick. With all this chaos, Joey decided to become Mr. Helpful. Can he help everyone, rescue his dognapped dog and befriend the meanest blind girl in town?

Dad has returned to their lives in the fourth book and he’s got a whole new name and a plan for a whole new life for Joey and his mom. It’s easy to accept these changes at first, since Dad won the lottery, but eventually things begin to unravel, as they almost always do for Joey.

Joey’s life could not be any crazier. His father has vanished to go have plastic surgery for a new face and Joey is left in charge of his baby brother when his mom checks herself into a hospital with severe postpartum depression. Joey is blessed with the help of his blind friend (girlfriend?) and ends up taking very good care of the baby. Somehow, in this final book in the series Joey manages to become the rock his family needs to stand on.


This sums up the sadness and beauty of Joey. Though he was dealt a hard hand in life, he keeps going, trying to do better and be better. You can see kids like this everywhere you look. I hope their lives are not as crazy as Joey’s but he lets me know that we all have a right to hope for better in our futures.

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