Honestly not much to say besides this book stayed heartbreaking from beginning to end. Whitehead does so much with the language while reading this book you may end up cringing at times. Seeing how boys who were unlucky enough to be sent to the Nickel Academy (white and black) were treated by supposed adults that were supposed to be helping them makes you a bit sick inside after a while. This book reminds me a bit of "Sleepers" though we don't see any justice (or vengeance done). For readers that don't know, Whitehead took inspiration from the Dozier School that was reported about in 2014. Here is a link for those who want to read more, https://www.npr.org/2012/10/15/162941770/floridas-dozier-school-for-boys-a-true-horror-story
"The Nickel Boys" follow Elwood Curtis as he grows up during the Civil Rights Movement. Elwood is always a bit different than others and is doing what he can to be a man like Dr. Martin Luther King preaches about. When he is arrested and sent to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, Elwood sees a side of the world that he never knew existed. He tries to keep his faith about what is fair and not fair and to be the change that Dr. King talks about. We jump into the future at times (1980s and 2014) and we follow a grown man that was also sent to The Nickel Academy.
Elwood made me want to shake him at times. I wanted to tell him to keep his head down and not push for things because he was not in the place to push for me. He was being treated terribly and his dreams of college are derailed. Reading about his young life and how his grandmother raised him after his parents abandoned him made me sad. The other boys we follow in this one have bleak beginnings and endings too. Elwood's one friend in the place, Turner, is cynical because he sees the truth about things a lot sooner than Elwood. There friendship is one of the lightest parts of the novel. Turner is jaded and sometimes wants to hurt Elwood for his faith and beliefs, but he is also protective of him too.
The writing as I said at times is harsh. This book is a lot to read over one sitting. It's fairly short though (over 200 pages) and the flow at times does get a bit jumbled when Whitehead jumps to "present day". When I got to the ending, I did go back and re-read the "present day" sections again with new clarity.
The setting of The Nickel Academy is the stuff of nightmares.
The ending doesn't leave much for hope, but you get why the character is doing what they are in the end. Even though decades have passed, The Nickel Academy is still haunting them.