The Nickel Boys

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

A haunting and profound story-Whitehead shares a unique coming of age narrative from the perspective of a young man incarcerated in a crumbling detention home battling with racism and abuse.  Superb character development and sense of place.
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Based on the real story of the Dozier School for Boys in Florida, The Nickel Boys tells the story of Elwood Curtis, a young boy who has learned to get ahead in the white man’s world by being polite and working hard. He has taken the words of Martin Luther King Jr. into his very soul, and longs to join in the protests taking place all over the South. Elwood has a bright future ahead of him, is on his way to college, but his path is diverted when he finds himself in the wrong place at he wrong time, and ends up at the Nickel Academy. There, the rules for getting ahead are different, and the punishments eked out mostly don’t fit the “crimes” committed - truancy, the accidental bumping of a white man, even being abandoned by their parents. The boys are subjected to extreme physical abuse, rape, and even murder in the name of being “reformed.” 

That a real school like Nickel existed and operated under these principles for over one hundred years is shameful. Government-sanctioned injustice and the human capacity to not only tolerate but to impart evil are all part of the story. The boys at Nickel, those who make it out, carry these things with them for the rest of their lives. It is a difficult story, beautifully told. The non-linear narrative works well to carry the story forward, and this haunting story will stay with me for along time.
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Too often we see a story of traumatic events told with a sensationalist bent, following the idea that "more is more"  This book proves how unnecessary that is.  The book tells its story in a simple, yet still haunting tone, letting you inside the main characters mind in such a way it is impossible not to identify with him.  This story which should feel so long ago, instead, in its simplicity, is infinitely relatable today.  This book will keep you thinking about its characters and content long after you've turned the last page.
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Whitehead's novel, based on a story ripped from the headlines, is an emotional roller coaster of a book.  I loved Elwood's story and in the hands of Whitehead, each sentence, stunning.  This is a book that stays with you long after you have read it.
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Beautifully written story about two young African American boys whose lives got derailed and changed forever.
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Colson Whitehead brings us to a boys reform school in Florida on the eve of the Civil Right Movement.. We learn about the boys both inside and outside of the facility, the obstacles placed in their paths, nearly insurmountable. There are interesting twists in the story, and a hopeful ending. This book is a must-read. As a librarian, I also think it would make an excellent YA choice as well.
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Colson Whitehead has been on my to-read list for a long time now. And it was completely worth the wait. This is a great new addition to his work and to our library.
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This is a deeply moving novel dealing with the horrors of a corrupt prison system, and the resilience of the human spirit. 
I am a huge fan of Colson Whitehead’s writing.. The Nickel Boys exceeded my expectations high as they were.
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Amazing. A must-read. I can’t stop thinking about the book, characters, and history.  I give the book five stars. A triumph (again) by a gifted writer.
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Based on an actual place, Colson Whitehead delivers the story of a Jim Crow-era Florida “juvie”. Robust character, heartbreaking storylines with present day implications. Read this.
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This book was a page turner. I must admit, I did not get through the Underground Railroad, and was hesitant to give this a try. I am so glad I did as once I started, I could not put it down. Telling the story of a Jim-Crow Era reform school for boys, the author brings to light the demons surrounding the school through he story of one boy, Elwood. Flipping back and forth through time, the readers get a glimpse of life at the school, Elwood's own attempt at Civil Rights reform, and the man he becomes as a result. A surprise twist at the end is also a plus. Great read. Definitely recommend it.
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I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this. I love The Underground Railroad, and I didn't love this. So in a sense it was disappointing. But in another sense, he did something very clever with this. But in another sense, it was redundant.



Review copy provided publisher.
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