Eleven-year-old Lorenzo Ventura knows heroes are rare--like his father, who died in the war, or his friend Paloma Lee, who fearlessly pursues her dream of being a famous musician. Renzo would never describe himself as a hero, but his chance comes when he adopts Marty, a runt piglet.
Marty is extraordinary--he thinks he's a dog and acts like one too--and his bond with Renzo is truly one of a kind. At first, the family farm seems like the perfect home for Marty, but as he approaches 350 pounds, it becomes harder for Renzo to convince his mom that a giant pig makes a good pet. So when Marty causes a dangerous (and expensive) accident, Renzo knows Marty's time is up. He'd do anything and everything for his best friend, but will everything be enough to save Marty?
Paul Griffin masterfully melds the heartrending and the hopeful in this unforgettable story about the power of friendship . . . and the unsung heroes all around us.
Reading Saving Marty (and also Greenglass House from my last review) reminded me what I've always loved about middle-grade novels--how the complexity of life is portrayed through relative simplicity. The plotline, characters, and writing are easy to follow, but the world they collectively create and the messages they impart are full of meaning. The friendship between Lorenzo and Marty, the lovable housepig, is central to the story, and Marty's presence helps Lorenzo work through obstacles in his life, specifically, trying to understand a father that he never knew.
I especially love the characters--Lorenzo, Lorenzo's mom, Double Pop, Paloma, and of course, Marty--who each possess distinctive personalities, as well as the dynamic among them as they experience triumphs and hardships together. All of the secondary characters are multidimensional as well--there are no archetypes; each person, whether overall "good" or "bad," has a heart, and motivations behind their actions that bring humanity into their characters.
I also love the role of music in this novel as something that ties Paloma and Lorenzo together and also provides Lorenzo a link to his father, and there are pages of sheet music shattered throughout the novel of the songs they play. All of these elements create a story that is more than just the friendship between a boy and his pig, but a larger series of events and personal growth catalyzed by Marty's presence as Lorenzo learns lessons about acceptance, heroism, and selflessness. Life is imperfect and endings can be bittersweet, and Saving Marty portrays all of these ups and downs.