The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwoo...

Details The Nickel Boys

TitleThe Nickel Boys
Release DateJul 16th, 2019
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Nickel Boys

  • Roxane
    I loved this novel. It is rich with detail, the plot twists in a really interesting way, the novel's structure is pretty brilliant and overall, this is an ambitious book that was really well executed. It is a coming of age story where that coming of age is warped by the atrocities of a school for boys in segregated Florida. As Elwood awakens to the civil rights movement, he is stripped of nearly all his rights. The more he understands the freedom...
  • Paromjit
    Colson Whitehead confirms his position as a phenomenal writer with this ostensibly heartbreaking and harrowing fictional storytelling, but which is informed by the darkest, most shameful, and ugliest period of American history explored through the lives of two young boys, set in the early 1960s Civil Rights time and all the horrors of the Jim Crow era in Frenchtown, segregated Tallahassee, Florida. Whitehead writes in understated and subtly nuanc...
  • Nilufer Ozmekik
    Five blood freezing, rage boiler, pump squeezer, creator of several lumps on your throat, tear jerker, wake up call for all the injustice, unacceptable, unfair wrongdoings of the system stars! As soon as I closed the book, I just sat for at least two hours, paralyzed, did nothing, lost, confused, agitated, speechless, deeply, wholeheartedly, painfully sorry for the characters and all the suffering they had to endure. The worst thing is I didn’t...
  • Beata
    Before starting this novel, I had read several interviews with Colson Whitehead, and reading them added to my understanding of THE NICKEL BOYS. Mr Whitehead chose to write about a piece of history which even he had known nothing about before 2014: a reform school for boys which operated for decades and where children were treated with cruelty and brutality. A deeply disturbing and shocking novel about two black boys in the 1960s who are sent to t...
  • Brandice
    True to form, Colson Whitehead delivers another well-written, deep story that while incredibly devastating, deserves to be told. The Nickel Boys is fictional account based on the true, horrifying Dozier School for Boys in good ol’ Florida, which Whitehead references at both the beginning and end of the book. ”You can hide a lot in an acre, in the dirt.” I was immediately a fan of Elwood, the main character, a virtuous teenage student, follo...
  • D. St. Germain
    (revised review - 5 stars)“It was quite a sight, all the boys, big and small, hustling in unified purpose, paint on their chins, the chucks wobbling as they ferried the cans of Dixie.” As part of their “community service,” The Nickel Boys paint buildings Dixie White, while avoiding sadistic and potentially fatal beatings delivered via a leather strap named Black Beauty. The boys, “cheaper than a dime-a-dance and you got more for your mo...
  • Marchpane
    A world of injustice or the truer, biding world? The Nickel Boys melds When They See Us with The Shawshank Redemption and Colson Whitehead’s faultless instincts as a novelist. Some books are 5 stars because they strike a chord with your own specific reading tastes; some are 5 stars because they are so good everybody should read them. This book is firmly in the latter category.The Nickel Boys is about a reformatory school for boys (effectively ...
  • Diane S ☔
    Tallahassee, Florida, 1960's and Elwood a young black boy has big plans. He believes MLK that change is coming soon, that non violence and forgiveness with eventually free their people. Allow them the same rights as whites. But, this is the Jim Crow south and Elwood, with a belief in his bright future, will find himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Sent to the Nickel Academy, said to be a place that straightens out those on the wrong pl...
  • Tammy
    The Florida Dozier School for Boys opened in 1900 and didn’t close until 2011. In this novel, it is renamed the Nickel Academy and the story is partially based upon true events that took place during the early 1960’s. Some of the boys, both black and white, had committed crimes while others didn’t have families or were runaways. The school didn’t provide an academic education or help of any kind. Instead, these young boys (ages 18-21) wer...
  • Chaima ✨ شيماء
    The thought of this book stirs up a pain so sharp it almost seems my flesh lay open.There is so much I can’t figure out how to say in words right now. My heart feels as raw as a burn; a feeling made all the more resonant by the realization that the story is inspired by true events, that it captures between its page the remembered violence of America's history—fathomless and ugly. Colson Whitehead refuses to do their reader the dishonor of the...
  • Tucker
    Words fail me in trying to express how good this book is. What I can say is go buy and read it immediately. I read it over a week ago and it is still running through my mind. I anticipate it will continue to do so for quite some time. The best book I’ve read this year, and I’ve read quite a few. A don’t miss read.
  • Michael
    Harrowing and bleak, The Nickel Boys takes place at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, but the novel depicts an entrenched system of institutionalized racism that’s nearly as brutal and dehumanizing as slavery itself. The story follows Elwood, an idealistic young man preparing to attend college when a tragic misunderstanding lands him in an inhumane reformatory school, the Nickel Academy. The crux of the plot hinges on whethe...
  • JanB
    Man’s inhumanity to man never fails to devastate me. Maybe my emotions are particularly raw this week but this book destroyed me. In a good way, as this is a story that needs to be told.The Nickel Academy is a true House of Horrors and the injustices done to the boys who resided there are mind-boggling. Although this is a piece of fiction, it is based on real events. The Nickel Boys is a fictionalized version of the Dozier School for Boys, i.e....
  • Read By RodKelly
    In Colson Whitehead's latest historical masterpiece, a horrific, real-life reform school for boys in Florida is fictionalized as The Nickel Academy, a century-old institution where teenage boys, black and white, are sent for the slightest crimes: truancy, petty theft, "disrespecting" a white person, or even the crime of being abandoned by their parents. Extreme abuse, rape, racism, and brutal murder are ruling principles, and the only way to esca...
  • PattyMacDotComma
    4.5★“ ‘Sometimes they take you to the White House and we never see your ass again.. . . Your family asks the school what happened and they say you ran away,’ Turner said.. . . ‘It’s not how it’s supposed to be,’ Elwood said. ‘Don’t nobody care about supposed-to.’ ”Based on a real place, the Nickel Academy is a reform ‘school’ in Florida where young Ellwood accidentally finds himself in the early 1960s. He is a bookish...
  • Meike
    This book equally moved and infuriated me - why can't we manage to finally render the attitudes discussed in this historical novel, well, historical? "The Nickel Boys" is a written monument to the black boys who - alone and helpless - were subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment in a so-called "reform school", and the perpetrators and enablers of the crimes they endured were the same kind of people who today shout "send her back" and "build the...
  • Robin
    The Nickel Boys, a book about the horrors of a fictional reformatory school in 1960s Southern USA, was my first experience reading Colson Whitehead. I was excited to read this literary powerhouse, author of nine novels, one of which won the Pulitzer prize in 2017. As I dug into the book, I recognised right away that it is written very well - some might say flawlessly. In fact I wouldn't dare to critique it on that level. Its structure, pacing, et...
  • sue
    This book gives you the biggest slap in the face reality check you’ll ever want to experience.This is fiction based on fact. I really don’t think I’d have survived for long in these times of black (coloured) vs white folk. I just see people. I don’t see race, creed, religion or any diversity. Just people.Good or bad and indeed in this book.....darn right evil.Based around 2 people primarily .Elwood is a kind ordainary guy. He’s clever, ...
  • Melki
    The state opened the school in 1899 as the Florida Industrial School for Boys. "A reform school where the young offender of law, separated from vicious associates, may receive physical, intellectual, and moral training, be reformed and restored to the community with purpose and character fitting for a good citizen, an honorable and honest man with a trade or skilled occupation fitting such person for self-maintenance." The boys were called studen...
  • Ron Charles
    “The Nickel Boys” draws its inspiration from incidents of abuse at the real-life Dozier School for Boys, a now-closed reformatory school in Florida that operated for more than a century. Though the facility opened with apparently good intentions to bring a more enlightened approach to the treatment of troubled and orphaned youngsters, it devolved into an underworld of torture, rape and murder. Just last month, Florida officials announced plan...
  • Lisa
    Once again Whitehead has taken me on a mind-blowing, heart-wrenching journey. The horrifying story of the fictionalized Nickel Academy (based on the Dozier School for Boys) is not a distant slice of history - it took place in my lifetime! The prose is clear and strong and every page is packed with foreboding. I was terrified for Elwood. I read this novel tensely at the edge of my seat - and still Whitehead took me somewhere that shocked me. Brill...
  • Emma
    ‘Even in death the boys were trouble.’The Nickel Boys opens with an unearthing of bones. In this physical evidence, held and photographed and catalogued, is an impossibility: denial. Cue shock and horror at this ‘revelation’, a ‘hidden’ past in the form of dead black boys.‘Plenty of boys had talked of the secret graveyard before, but as it had ever been with Nickel, no one believed them until someone else said it’.Based on the bru...
  • Gumble's Yard
    Updated with new thoughts. Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book award and was longlisted for the Booker prize – but as well as its literary prize recognition it gained a number of nominations for Science Fiction prizes and won the prestigious Arthur C Clarke award. That book, in simple terms, told a familiar story in an unfamilar way.The sadly familiar story was of brutality on Southe...
  • Chris
    "The Nickel Boys" is haunting and heartbreaking, and had me turning the pages both because I cared so profoundly about Colson Whitehead’s magnificently drawn characters, and because I was raging at the appalling injustice he was chronicling. This is a beautiful book and an important book and, like all of Whitehead’s work, written with grace and beauty and a deep, remarkable imagination.
  • Lark Benobi
    I can say unequivocally that this is a well-written book. But maybe because it is grounded in a recent, true story, and maybe because Whitehead doesn't allow himself this time to mess with the facts the way he did in The Underground Railroad, this novel hit me as relatively lifeless, and absolutely predictable. After getting to the last page and closing the book I discovered I had fallen into a kind of mourning. I missed the "Pre-Underground-Rail...
  • Kelli
    Probably the best book I’ve read this year. Phenomenally written and wholly devastating.
  • Jessica Woodbury
    This is the eighth book by Whitehead that I've read and by now I know what to expect from his fiction. It will be full of perfect sentences that never feel like they're showing off. It will break my heart at least three times in ways that are expected and surprising as a sucker punch. It is best not to come in with any particular expectations, he is the master of any genre he pleases and sometimes a book is not the genre you think it is.THE NICKE...
  • Candie
    Amazing book that deals with America's history of systemic racism and cruelty and both the immediate and long term effects it has on people's lives. I love a book that teaches me about our history, even if that history is appalling. The acts in this book are just inhumane and I am disgusted and heartbroken to know that this fictional story is based on true events of the Florida Dozier School. How can any human even do such awful things to another...
  • Jessica Jeffers
    Holy shit. This was something else.Based on the true story of a reform school for boys that trafficked in sadistic forms of punishment, The Nickel Boys follows the story of Elwood, a young black man in racially segregated Tallahassee who is striving for a better future and dreaming of college when a chance encounter earns him a sentence to The Nickel Academy. The school is presented as a moral rehabilitation for delinquent youth, but is, in reali...
  • Roman Clodia
    Aargh, I just wrote a long-ish review of this... and then it disappeared into the ether - infuriating! So the re-written short version is that this is an important book but one which feels deeply and horribly familiar. Injustice, racism, corruption, sadistic cruelty, abuse of the disenfranchised by the powerful all exist in myriad contexts and there's perhaps no way of making them feel fresh or unique any more. Whitehead states in his afterword t...