In this Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times bestselling follow-up to The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys unjustly sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
When Elwood Curtis,...Read More
When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood's only salvation is his friendship with fellow "delinquent" Turner, which deepens despite Turner's conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood's ideals and Turner's skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades.
Based on the real story of a reform school that operated for 111 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 and "should further cement Whitehead as one of his generation's best (Entertainment Weekly).
Colson Whitehead is the number one New York Times bestselling author of nine books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Underground Railroad, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. He is also a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships. In 2020, he won his second Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Nickel Boys. He lives in New York City.
"A necessary read." - President Barack Obama
"This is a powerful book by one of America's great writers. . . . Without sentimentality, in as intense and finely crafted a book as you'll ever read, Whitehead tells a story of American history that won't allow you to see the country in the same way again." - Toronto Star
"Colson Whitehead continues to make a classic American genre his own . . . . The narration is disciplined and the sentences plain and sturdy, oars cutting into water. Every chapter hits its marks. . . . Whitehead comports himself with gravity and care, the steward of painful, suppressed histories; his choices on the page can feel as much ethical as aesthetic. The ordinary language, the clear pane of his prose, lets the stories speak for themselves. . . . Whitehead has written novels of horror and apocalypse; nothing touches the grimness of the real stories he conveys here." - The New York Times
"Inspired by a real school in Florida, The Nickel Boys is a haunting narrative that reinforces Whitehead's prowess as a leading voice in American literature." - TIME
"[The Nickel Boys] should further cement Whitehead as one of his generation's best." - Entertainment Weekly
"Were Whitehead's only aim to shine an unforgiving light on a redacted chapter of racial terrorism in the American chronicle, that would be achievement enough. What he is doing in his new novel, as in its immediate predecessor, is more challenging than that. . . . He applies a master storyteller's muscle. . . . The elasticity of time in The Nickel Boys feels so organic that only when you put the book down do you fully appreciate that its sweep encompasses much of the last century as well as this one. . . . A writer like Whitehead, who challenges the complacent assumption that we even fathom what happened in our past, has rarely seemed more essential." - The New York Times Book Review
"A masterpiece squared, rooted in history and American mythology and, yet, painfully topical in its visions of justice and mercy erratically denied . . . a great American novel." - Maureen Corrigan, NPR.org
"Whitehead's brilliant examination of America's history of violence is a stunning novel of impeccable language and startling insight." - Publishers Weekly
"Whitehead's magnetic characters exemplify stoicism and courage, and each supremely craftedscene smolders and flares with injustice and resistance, building to a staggering revelation. Inspired by an actual school, Whitehead's potently concentrated drama pinpoints the brutality and insidiousness of Jim Crow racism with compassion and protest. . . . A scorching work." - Booklist
"[A] stunning new novel. . . . The understated beauty of his writing, combined with the disquieting subject matter, creates a kind of dissonance that chills the reader. Whitehead has long had a gift for crafting unforgettable characters, and Elwood proves to be one of his best. . . . The final pages of the book are a heartbreaking distillation of the story that preceded them; it's a perfect ending to a perfect novel. The Nickel Boys is a beautiful, wrenching act of witness, a painful remembrance of an 'infinite brotherhood of broken boys, ' and it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Whitehead is one of the most gifted novelists in America today." - NPR
"Magnificent. . . . Whitehead's prose is meticulous; he nimbly shifts between the 1960s and present day, creating a fully fleshed-out picture of violence and (in)justice." - Buzzfeed
"Colson Whitehead's follow-up to The Underground Railroad is devastating and powerful, a harrowing novelization on another dark aspect of American history. . . . Never didactic, but always illuminating--even in those darkest of places in our collective story-- The Nickel Boys is a brilliant, horrifying look into the legacy of Jim Crow, and the ways in which racism and oppression don't exist in defiance to the American Dream, but rather as its fuel." - NYLON
"[The Nickel Boys's] dialogue, the efficient character sketches and the unobtrusive but always-advancing plot are evidence of mature ability . . . spry and animated and seamed with dark humor . . . [with] a dazzling final twist that Mr. Whitehead stages with such casual skill that one only begins to unpack its meanings well after the book has ended. . . . The excellence of The Nickel Boys carries an added feeling of hope because it's evidence of a gradual, old-fashioned artistic progression that fewer and fewer writers are allowed the time to pursue. . . . The Nickel Boys demonstrate the versatile gifts of a writer who is rounding into mastery. The impression left is that Mr. Whitehead can succeed at any kind of book he takes on. He has made himself one of the finest novelists in America." - The Wall Street Journal
"Whitehead's new novel . . . is in many ways a continuation of his reassessment of African American history. But The Nickel Boys is no mere sequel . . . it's a surprisingly different kind of novel. . . . Whitehead reveals the clandestine atrocities of Nickel Academy with just enough restraint to keep us in a state of wincing dread. . . . It shreds our easy confidence in the triumph of goodness and leaves in its place a hard and bitter truth about the ongoing American experiment." - The Washington Post