The Nickel Boys

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, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South in the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides "physical, intellectual and moral training" so the delinquent boys in their charge can become "honorable and honest men."

In reality, The Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors, where the sadistic staff beats and sexually abuses the students, corrupt officials and locals steal food and supplies, and any boy who resists is likely to disappear "out back." Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr. King's ringing assertion "Throw us in jail and we will still love you." His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked and the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys' fates will be determined by what they endured at The Nickel Academy.

Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative.

Title:The Nickel Boys
Edition Language:English
ISBN:null
Format Type:

    The Nickel Boys Reviews

  • 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....

  • 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 ...

  • 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...

  • 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 whi...

  • 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 Dozi...

  • 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 ...

  • 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 star...

  • 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...

  • 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 durin...

  • Elyse Walters

    Quick update:Meeting Colson Whitehead last night was great. He was so hilarious!!! I don’t think one person in the room expected him to be as funny as he was. A gorgeous man - funnier than any of us...