Book Review: The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while but I hadn’t been in the mood for anything heavy lately. After several very light reads, it was time to crack this book wide open. After all, light reads don’t win the Pulitzer Prize like this novel did.

Elwood Curtis is a teenager in the 1960s South with a very promising future. From the first page, it’s clear Elwood sees the best in everyone and wants to do whatever he can to make the world a better, stronger place. His hard work is recognized, earning him a spot to take classes at a local college while still in high school. But being in the wrong place at the wrong time lands him a sentence at a reform school called Nickel Academy. Nickel’s mission statement sounds admirable, but the school is a dark place that tests Elwood’s ideals.

Whitehead proves there is power in words. This slim novel hovers right around 200 pages, but it manages to pack a wallop. Injustice is stated so simply here, making the message all the more powerful. While works of nonfiction play an extremely important role in our education, fictional accounts of a time in history can be powerful tools as well. The Nickel Boys is fiction (though inspired by a horrific real school – and based upon research on Dozier School and it seems to be a very realistic depiction) but it serves as a raw representation of the Jim Crow era South that will undoubtedly affect readers.

5 out of 5 stars.

Pair with: Warm rum and cokes