Book Review: “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead

nickel boysSummer can often be seen as the time for easy, fun, escapist reading. The latest from Colson Whitehead certainly is not that. Don’t get me wrong, the writing style has enough of a pop-sensibility and the plot is suspenseful enough to keep readers turning the pages, but knowing that this story is based on a very-real place, makes the subject matter far from easy. We follow African-American teenager Elwood Curtis, who is about to enroll in college, but finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and punished for a crime he did not commit. As punishment he is sent to The Nickel Academy, which claims to have rehabilitation as its goal, but instead is run by an assortment of cruel and/or corrupt staff who make life for the boys sent there into a living hell. While there, he befriends another boy, Turner, whose skeptical attitude towards society goes against Elwood’s more hopeful, Martin Luther King-inspired worldview, but who also helps Elwood to survive inside the facility. The fate of Elwood specifically shines a spotlight on just how cruelly black people were treated in this country at the time, especially in the South, but the experiences of the boys sentenced to time inside The Nickel Academy, of all colors, highlight just how stunningly cruel human beings are capable of being to each other, especially when those committing the atrocities are in positions of power over others. This is an engaging and important piece of work, with an ending that will linger with readers long after they turn the final page. ★★★★★ – Sean Farrell

Available Formats:

Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | PlayawayeBook | eAudiobook

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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