This book was written in French, and translated into English by the author of the original, Les Petites Reines, which won four book prizes in France.
The Piglettes in the title are three girls who have been voted the Bronze, Silver and Gold medals in their school’s online Pig Pageant: Mireille, Astrid and Hakima. It seems unbelievable that students could be so cruel: setting up a Facebook page discussing the girls’ ’ugliness’ and voting for the worst-looking ‘pig’. Yet every day we hear horrendous accounts of trolling, so perhaps it isn’t as far away from the truth as we would hope.
The story is narrated by Mireille, whose outlook is refreshingly positive, funny and courageous. She is clever and witty and enjoys winding people up, especially her mother and step-father. Mireille and Astrid band together to visit Hakima, to offer her their support when the Pig Pageant results are announced. They find that she has more important issues on her mind. Together they team up, and decide to set out on a road trip to Paris, their aim being to attend the President’s garden party at the Elysée Palace on 14 July. They all have their reasons for wanting to be there, and important points to make.
The journey, by bike, is funded through sales of sausages, which they take with them in a trailer and cook up each day when they reach their next destination. The girls are chaperoned by Hakima’s older brother Kader, a former soldier, who has lost both legs in action. Kader’s friends have clubbed together to buy him an amazing wheelchair, to help him come to terms with his disability.
Mireille is astute enough to get coverage from a local journalist, and the Piglettes’ journey becomes a real hit on social media. Everywhere they go, they meet journalists and well-wishers, with online commentary – both positive and offensive – following their exploits.
The point of the novel is that the girls have risen above their persecutors and have set out to do what they want to, never taking no for an answer. They support each other through every stage of the journey, meeting every hardship with determination, and making the most of every opportunity to have fun.
This book is full of humour, and very uplifting. It’s light-hearted and silly, but the underlying political and social criticism is clear to see. It would be great as a starting point for a book group discussion, with young people of 14+.