The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza (Joey Pigza #5) by Jack Gantos

The fifth and final book in the groundbreaking Joey Pigza series brings the beloved chronicle of this wired, wacky, and wonderful boy to a crescendo of chaos and craziness, as everything goes topsy-turvy for Joey just as he starts to get his feet on the ground. With his dad MIA in the wake of appearance-altering plastic surgery, Joey must give up school to look after his new baby brother and fill in for his mom, who hospitalizes herself to deal with a bad case of postpartum blues. As his challenges mount, Joey discovers a key that could unlock the secrets to his father’s whereabouts, a mystery that must be solved before Joey can even hope that his broken family might somehow come back together—if only it doesn’t pull him apart first.

joey

I picked up this character driven, middle grade book after continually reading about its starred reviews.  I hadn’t read the previous four titles in the series, so I didn’t have that long term connection with Joey.  I found the book really dark and depressing.   There is family dysfunction, mental illness, poverty, child abandonment, and a depressed blind girlfriend who needs Joey to buy her panties.  I’m astonished that Joey could have such a “paw-si-tive” outlook surrounded by such drama.   The ending could be interpreted two ways.  Some may see the ending as optimistic, but sadly, I find it hard to believe that things will be OK.  There are too many unresolved issues for his family to deal with on their own.  The Pigza family is in need of serious help.  Although Joey does have a distinct voice, this book was a little too depressing for me.

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