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, Cultural, African American, Adult 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...
  • 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...
  • 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 ...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Sarah
    The setting of Colson Whitehead's latest novel is mid-60s Florida, and the state is still amidst the Jim Crow era. Elwood, raised by his grandmother in Frenchtown, works in a tobacconists and is scouted for attendance at free classes in the local college. Elwood has become inspired by Martin Luther King's speeches through a recording of MLK's work that his grandmother bought, but becomes embroiled in a crime which sets his life off on a different...
  • Alex
    "The world had whispered its rules to him for his whole life and he refused to listen, hearing instead a higher order. The world continued to instruct: Do not love for they will disappear, do not trust for you will be betrayed, do not stand up for you will be swatted down. Still he heard those higher imperatives: Love and that love will be returned, trust in the righteous path and it will lead you to deliverance, fight and things will change. He ...
  • Jaclyn Crupi
    Giddy-up, motherfucker. Says it all really.
  • Dianah
    Colson Whitehead continues to be unafraid to expose the horror of the black experience in America, and to that, I say, amen, Mr. Whitehead. This is the story of a boys reform school in the south, and the history of torture the boys endured there. Although this is fiction, the school this book is based on, did indeed exist, and operated as the novel depicts. The story of Elwood Curtis is a study in race relations and utter cruelty, and the hopeles...
  • Melissa Crytzer Fry
    **4.5 stars rounded up **What a heartbreaking, incredibly well-written novel based on an actual “reform” school for boys in Florida (The Dozier School for Boys). This book is slight in pages (210), but voluminous in content, heart, and emotion. I was immediately drawn into the world of the main character, Elwood, and soon his friend, Turner. The writing is economical in some ways, but in others wholly literary and arresting. Whitehead’s cho...
  • Tyler Goodson
    I remember driving through Maraianna, Florida with my grandparents and hearing stories about the Dozier School for Boys. The reform school in The Nickel Boys is based on The Dozier School, and those stories are sickeningly, horrifyingly real. Colson Whitehead underlines the reality of that place, and the existence of the boys who were tormented there. He shows how what the Nickel boys endured will never leave them, no matter how many years or mil...
  • Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
    Based on real events but fictionalized for the 1960s Martin Luther King/Jim Crow of the South era, this is a book that is five stars because it's a must read for everyone. This is my first by Whitehead and it most certainly will not be my last. This one really hits you hard for just being over 200 pages. It's harrowing to read about what Elwood, and the people around him, went through simply because of the color of their skin. While this was writ...
  • Eileen Daly-Boas
    (I received an advanced reader’s copy of this.)Colson Whitehead is an amazing writer, and I always like how he crafts his words. This is a wrenching story that’s beautifully told. Elwood, the main character, is so lovingly written that any injustice would necessarily seem cruel. But, from the very beginning, the reader knows that he’s not getting out unscathed. Whitehead’s brilliance is in holding back, in *not* cataloging every injustice...
  • Renée | Book Girl Magic
    Colson Whitehead is simply just brilliant! This is my second time reading a work of his and I was not disappointed. So much sadness within these pages but I felt like I walked away with closure after reading it. Although a fiction novel, this story is inspired by the story of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. Colson’s story follows the main character Elwood from his time landing at The Nickel Academy to his final days s...
  • 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.
  • Lisa1170
    This brief, harrowing novel spans decades in the lives of two friends that meet at the terrifying Nickel Academy for boys in Florida. I really liked the way this novel was structured, and there are some twists in the plot that I thought were quite clever. Also, the sharp contrast between the peaceful words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the harsh realities of Jim Crow South are apparent throughout. This story moved me and the tragic narratives of...
  • Neil
    The Nickel Boys tells the story of the fictional Nickel reform school in Florida. In the book, young men were sent to this school, often for minor offences, and were subjected to a brutal regime which some of them did not survive. We follow the story of one young man in particular, Elwood Curtis, but also, increasingly as the book progresses, the young man he befriends at Nickel, Turner. Elwood is at Nickel after a serious case of injustice motiv...
  • Jaime
    The Nickel Boys is about Elwood Curtis, a young boy coming of age in Florida during the Jim Crow era in the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s about one mistake could destroy your future when you’re a young black male in the South. For that mistake cost Elwood his dream of attending college. Instead, he is sentenced to the hellish juvenile reform school called The Nickel Academy•One thing I loved about this book is how Colson Whit...
  • Rachel Watkins
    There are countless atrocities from the Jim Crow era that haven't been told and they can be hard to to process. A master at his craft, Whitehead created a beautiful book about a horrific piece of Florida's history. Whitehead's THE NICKEL BOYS is a fictional story based on a very real reform school for boys that abused and murdered young boys for over one hundred years.
  • Melinda
    Made me yell "WAIT, WHAT" in the breakroom today. Actual review to come closer to pub date.
  • Bruce Katz
    I'm going to go out on a limb here. What Camus' "The Stranger" was to the post-World War Two generation, the "Nickel Boys" is to ours. A novel of big ideas, expansive vision, and heart told in a deceptively quiet voice that captures an essential aspect of its time. A book that deserves to be read, re-read, and taught in our schools.The publisher's description gives a perfectly useful summary of the plot. The basic set-up -- an innocent man is wro...
  • Rob Twinem
    I found it difficult to engage with this story. Elwood Curtis grows up in 60's Florida, a time of race riots yet balanced with that the wonderful influential and lyrical leadership and direction of Martin Luther king. One small mistake results in Elwood being enrolled in a reform school, a home for difficult boys and an attempt to make them physically, emotionally, and intellectually better. The young Elwood Curtis meets, befriends and is greatly...
  • MisterHobgoblin
    The Nickel Academy is fictitious (I think) story of Elwood Curtis, a young black boy in Florida who finds himself sent to a reform school that is based on the factual Arthur C Dozier School For Boys.The opening scenes, set in the present day, have some archaeologists excavating human remains on the site of the recently closed Nickel Academy. These remains are not in the well-populated official graveyard and people begin to wonder what horrors led...
  • Tom Mooney
    How do you follow a book like The Underground Railroad? A collosus that won bags of awards and was a massive critical, commercial and cultural success. THIS is how.This is an extremely good novel about yet another shameful tale of the USA's recent history - the treatment of black boys in reform schools.Based on the real events at Florida's Dozier School for Boys, Whitehead has constructed a novel of shocking revelation, deeply moving human traged...
  • Robert Sheard
    Based on an actual reform school in Jim-Crow era Florida, this is the story of Elwood Carter, a black teenager who, inspired by the speeches of Dr.King, is about to start classes at the local black college. An innocent victim of wrong place - wrong time, Elwood is arrested and sent to the Nickel Academy in Tallahassee. What occurs there is among the most harrowing narratives you will ever read.
  • Jamise // Spines & Vines
    “That’s what the school did to a boy. It didn’t stop once you got out. Bend you all kind of ways until you were unfit for straight life, good and twisted by the time you left.” What a story! Colson Whitehead is a master storyteller. His ability to draw you into the story, catapult you back in time and captivate you with his characters is remarkable. The unspeakable things that were inflicted upon these boys was pure evil. I still need to ...