The Nickel Boys (Winner 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction): A Novel

· Sold by Anchor
52 reviews

About this ebook

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In this Pulitzer Prize-winning 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, 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).

Look for Colson Whitehead’s bestselling new novel, Harlem Shuffle!
52 reviews
Toby A. Smith
October 27, 2020
I did not give this book four stars because I enjoyed it. In fact, it's an excruciatingly difficult book to finish and not for the fainthearted. Also, unusually powerful. And the winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize. The Nickel Boys is based on a true story, something you learn more about in the author's afterword. The title refers to those youngsters who spent time at a Florida state reform school for boys. During the 1960s, both white and black boys are sent there, though they are housed and fed separately since this period coincides with Southern segregation. Those who run the school make no substantial effort at either education or rehabilitation. Instead, the boys provide endless hours of free labor while facing continual bullying and punishment. It's an institution where racism, sadism, sexual and physical abuse, and political corruption converge. The very reason why it's such a difficult book to read. These are teenagers, after all. The central character is the optimistic Elwood Curtis, unjustly sentenced to Nickel Academy and subjected to its brutality, whose only salvation comes from his deepening friendship with the skeptical Turner. How these two boys navigate a situation none of us would want to experience makes for a compelling story that is well-written. But certainly NOT fun.
17 people found this review helpful
Did you find this helpful?
not brainwashef
May 13, 2020
Good reading
6 people found this review helpful
Did you find this helpful?
Woolford London
July 31, 2019
Yup. Worst part is that it ended so fast.
13 people found this review helpful
Did you find this helpful?

About the author

Colson Whitehead is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, which in 2016 won the Pulitzer Prize in 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, as well as The Noble Hustle, Zone One, Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt, and The Colossus of New York. He is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships. He lives in New York City.

Colson Whitehead is available for select speakingengagements. To inquire about a possible appearance,please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureauat speakers@ or

Rate this book

Tell us what you think.

Reading information

Smartphones and tablets
Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.
Laptops and computers
You can listen to audiobooks purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.
eReaders and other devices
To read on e-ink devices like Kobo eReaders, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Follow the detailed Help Center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.