The Nickel Boys By Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys

By Colson Whitehead

  • Release Date: 2019-07-16
  • Genre: Historical
Score: 4.5
From 544 Ratings





In this bravura follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award-winning #1 New York Times bestseller The Underground Railroad, 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 of 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 onto 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 that 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 that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.


  • Stellar writing

    By Red Baroness
    This is an incredibly well-written book. The pace was beautiful, the narrative n and point of view switches were seamless. I always enjoy tales that involve well-done fact/fiction such as this. Another notch on the belt for Mr. Whitehead.
  • A chilling account of racism and abuse of humanity

    By kaykaybean13
    These people will stay with me for long after I’ve finished the book. I read the book from start to finish without putting it down. At times, I found my hand on my heart and it was racing over the terrifying life these young children were forced to endure at the hands of incredibly evil and criminal autho
  • Wouldn’t recommend

    By drew9-
    Disjointed and rushed
  • The nickel boys

    By imabuttie
    Brilliant!!!! Couldn’t stop reading....surprising and excellent denouement....can’t wait to recommend to my friends and family...imabuttie
  • Great

    By Cut wood
    Great book. It takes you into the world of the boys at Nickel. Well written and a sad but important story. It’s such a shame what went on.
  • The Nickel Boys

    By Joanabake
    Harrowing. If this doesn’t illustrate some of the abuses of the justice system, I’m not sure how to do it more graphically
  • the Nickel Boys

    By malarala
    Painful and powerful - thought provoking.. an excellent read and a timely topic to revisit and consider
  • Continues still

    By class of 63
    That this story still continues today is a horrific reminder of how much ground we are losing in racial justice and equality everyday.
  • The Nickel Boys

    By JoanHelen
    I was disappointed in this book. I loved The Underground Railroad. We discussed that book in our Book Club. I felt this book wandered all over the place. It just did not flow. I feel the author rushed to get another book on the market and possibly the bestseller list.
  • Confusing writing

    By hazza51
    it’s a shocking story that needed to be told about our past. But the manner in which it was told is disjointed, confusing and at times incomprehensible.