The Nickel Boys (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

The Nickel Boys (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

by Colson Whitehead

Hardcover(Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

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The Nickel Boys (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition)

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This Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition includes a letter to readers from Colson Whitehead, as well as a discussion guide.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385545358
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/16/2019
Edition description: Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 66
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Colson Whitehead is the author of nine books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Underground Railroad, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. A recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, he lives in New York City.


Brooklyn, NY

Date of Birth:

November 6, 1969

Place of Birth:

New York, NY


Harvard College, BA in English & American Literature

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The Nickel Boys (Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Samantha Downes 29 days ago
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was a fan of Colson Whitehead's last book The Underground Railroad. It was a very difficult read but a very good story. This book echoes that sentiment. It wasn't an easy read due to the subject matter but it was a very good story. Whitehead does an amazing job of developing the main character, Elwood Curtis. For some, they could probably remember the events that took place during the time frame of the book. Elwood's story begins in 1962 and he obsessively listens to a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. record over and over. He admires the civil rights movement leaders and mentions several key events in history. Whitehead does a great job of introducing Jim Crow era experiences to those like myself who could never imagine experiences as such. In my opinion, the best historical fiction is drawn from true stories and this was no exception. In Whitehead's previous novel, he introduces the story of a slave in the south and in this novel, he introduces a segregated reform school and the horrors that ensued within. I would recommend this book to those who were drawn to the writing of Whitehead either in "Underground Railroad" or prior. Fans of historical fiction should definitely read this and honestly, I think most Americans should read this because it is a story that isn't told often at all. Powerful and sticks with you long after finishing this short novel.
Anonymous 25 days ago
This story make my heart hurt. Even though it is a work of fiction, research tells us that much of it probably really happened. Colton Whitehead is an incredible writer!
TalNole 9 days ago
What a fabulous must read! While it is a work of fiction, it is based on tragic events in America’s history. Read this book in a couple of days because I just couldn’t stop. My first book by Colson Whitehead, but definitely not my last.
TakingTime 11 days ago
3.75 stars - Thanks to Doubleday books for a chance to read and review this ARC. Published Jul 16, 2019. Another winner by Whitehead. Having read Underground Railroad I was excited to see this book. Although feeling that this book was somewhat milder than Underground Railroad, I did enjoy the twists and turns that this book provided. Whitehead based this fictional book on the true to life experiences of boys incarcerated at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna Florida. In his acknowledgements he gives a number of other books and articles he used as reference for this book. In the early 60's as Martin Luther King started to become a household name, a young black boy hitched a ride and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, all the while just trying to get to college. Having done nothing wrong, and just for the fact that he was black, Elwood was arrested and ended up being sent to the juvenile reformatory Nickel Academy. Nickel Academy, where young boys were sent, and some never returned. With the White House and Black Beauty hanging over them, they became slaves to "The Man', whether they were Caucasian or Negro. There were only 5 ways out - age out, have the court intervene, have family remove you, accumulate the needed amount of merits, or disappear. Often boys disappeared at the hands of the Academy - Elwood chose to run. There were some twists in this story that surprised me. Although a fictional story I believe for the most part Whitehead tried to tell the story of the Dozier School for Boys, then as is so like him, he added his own touch in the way of these twists and turns. Proving that is one of the reasons that Whitehead books are so worth the read.
Anonymous 15 days ago
FrancescaFB 17 days ago
smg5775 18 days ago
This is one time I cannot give a short synopsis of the book because I would give the story away. I didn't know what to expect as I opened the book but I read the majority of it in one afternoon. The Nickel Boys is well written. I knew it would be a difficult book to read especially since I have been reading a lot of non-fiction lately about the prison system and the Jim Crow laws. I expected it to be more graphic than it was. It is different from Mr. Whitehead's The Underground Railroad--no magical realism in sight. I am still absorbing so much of it as I write this. It is a powerful piece of writing and should be on everyone's list to read sooner rather than later.
Anonymous 23 days ago
Brings to life the history of the South in the mid-20th century, and the life of African Americans living there.
Anonymous 28 days ago
Picked this up as a quick summer read and was nearly unable to put it down. I finished this book in 3 days. It is a phenomenal read for fans of social justice, historical fiction, and historical nonfiction alike. Whitehead continues to be a literary force.
miareese 3 months ago
Upsetting. Powerful. Another deeper dive into the United State's exploitative history from Colson Whitehead. Obviously, I knew going into this that the subject was going to be a heavy-hitter, but I think I was still -somehow- caught off-guard by how devastating it was. The contrast between our main character, Elwood's, hope for the future -not just his future, but the future of African-Americans in general- and The Nickel Academy's disgusting brutality and bigotry was so upsetting. I went back and forth rooting for Elwood, being excited for all he could accomplish, and despairing over his circumstances, feeling sick to my stomach. Knowing that this book is fictionalized, but that this actually was a reality only 50 years ago is revolting. I hope everyone reads this, and I hope it angers them too.
Mizula 3 months ago
Heartbreaking. Certain to be a bookclub favorite and required reading for schools. The writing is clear, honest and bold. Pure bad luck lands a boy in a reform school that is not what it appears to be, he must nurture the dream in his heart if he is to survive. A hymn to friendship and a tragic view into American history.