by Paul Zindel
Best friends John Conlan and Lorraine Jensen have something important to tell us. That’s what they say at the start of this novel, told in alternating chapters. They are sophomores at Franklin High School, and they want us to know “the facts, and only the facts” about their experiences with Mr. Angelo Pignati, aka “the Pigman.” It’s John’s idea to write about the Pigman. Neither John nor Lorraine has the best home life. They form a friendship after John winds up in the only available spot on the bus, next to Lorraine, and they erupt in a spontaneous laughing fit. John is very handsome with “fantastic eyes,” while Lorraine, as her mother tells her, is “not a pretty girl.” They meet the Pigman as part of a “telephone marathon.” Lorraine tells Mr. Pignati that she’s part of a charity fund drive, and when he falls for it, John insists that they go to collect the $10 he has donated. But the teens feel drawn to the lonely old fellow, and they start meeting him at the zoo, shopping with him at a department store, and visiting him at his home. Early on, the narrators divulge that the Pigman is dead. They feel guilty that they may have somehow contributed to his death, and perhaps they did, but their friendship also makes his life fuller, more vibrant. Things just go terribly out of control, as things can in high school, when one feels immortal, and doesn’t think about the impact one’s actions might have on someone else. The beauty of this novel, and part of the reason it has endured for more than 40 years, is how eloquently Paul Zindel characterizes these two teens, the Pigman, and their mutual affection. It will stay with you long past adolescence.