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The Central Park Five

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  459 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
A riveting, in-depth account of one of New York City’s most notorious crimes.

On April 20, 1989, the body of a woman is discovered in Central Park, her skull so badly smashed that nearly 80 percent of her blood has spilled onto the ground. Within days, five black and Latino teenagers confess to her rape and beating. In a city where urban crime is at a high and violence is
ebook, 256 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jun 04, 2011 Walter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK, I have to admit that I was a tad disappointed with this book initially, finding the first two chapters or so interesting in terms of details but not particularly movingly conveyed. In short, at first, the writing didn't move me though I was impressed with the author's earnestness and commitment to getting the complex and complicated story right. Luckily, I kept reading ... and, I'm happy to report, my experience changed completely and positively.

In fact, so good this book became that I can s
Mike Sinagria
Apr 22, 2013 Mike Sinagria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I watched this documentary a few months ago and just finally got around to reading the book. Sarah Burns goes into great detail into what actually took place in 1989. While I don't believe these kids were angels by any stretch of the imagination, I do believe it is absolutely disgusting how NYPD could coerce these minors into confessing to a crime they did not commit. I can see how you could jump to conclusions seeing as how these kids were running around rampant in the park that night but when ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Sarah Burns’ new book about the Central Park Jogger case has the advantage of hindsight. We now know that the five boys, ages 14 to 16, who were prosecuted for beating and raping a young woman who was jogging in Central Park on an April night in 1989 are almost undoubtedly not guilty of that crime.

This does not mean that they are innocent. They may not have committed that crime but they were among a pack of 30 to 40 young men who rampaged in the park that night, attacking joggers and bicyclist a
Sep 28, 2011 Louisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading some of the primary criticisms leveled at Burns' book--namely, its "flat," uninspired, faux-Didionesque language and its refusal to see the crimes the boys labeled as "the central park five" were still guilty of even as they were cleared of the more serious rape and attempted murder charges as real and terrible crimes--I went into reading it with a certain amount of skepticism.

However, upon reading the book in its entirety in one day-long sitting, I'm ready to say that the naysayer
Lisa Regan
Jan 27, 2013 Lisa Regan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although what you get in this book is just the facts, it is a gripping and riveting read. I thought it would be somewhat dry reading but I could not put this book down. It would be the middle of the night and I just couldn't stop reading. I was not yet a teenager when the events that comprise this novel happened. Most Americans have heard of the Central Park Jogger--an affluent white woman who was brutally raped and beaten nearly to death in Central Park in 1989. In fact, I had read her book whi ...more
Feb 18, 2016 Meredith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished another book:

An astounding look at a landmark case that shocked a city, stunned a nation, and told us that just because it looks like a slam dunk case, doesn’t mean it is.

A great book for any person aspiring to be a police detective, lawyer, or journalist. I was in kindergarden when the Central Park Jogger was brutality raped while jogging in Central Park. Even, at that young age I remember the constant news coverage each night. Fast forward 24 years and I happen upon a documenta
May 25, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, 2011-favorites
"We tell ourselves stories in order to live." That is the opening line to Joan Didion's The White Album, as well as the title of the author's collected non-fiction, published in 2006. More than that, it is the theme of her writing, and one that I have absorbed into my life as a reader, librarian, storyteller, writer, person. The construction of the narrative tells its own story.

On April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili, who would come to be known as The Central Park Jogger, was attacked, raped, and left f
Jul 12, 2011 Kasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a compelling account of the "Central Park Jogger" case and the circumstances that led to 5 young men being tried and convicted of a crime they did not commit. It focuses on the racial aspects of the case and how it was portrayed in the media, as well as the general climate of NYC in the late 80s. I was young at the time so I had a vague memory of many of the events discussed, so it was very interesting to read about them more fully. I thought the author offered a good analysis of the cri ...more
Jan 26, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Around 10:20 on the evening of March 20, 2010, Anna Taylor, a 27-year-old waitress from Frenchtown, NJ, walked with her boyfriend west on South Street in Philadelphia toward the Tritone Bar. A black teenager passing them punched Anna in the face, knocking out a front tooth and its root and splitting her lip so it hung from her face. Later, the doctor at Hahnemann University Hospital used so many stitches to repair her lip that Taylor and her mother could n
Annie Talley
Sep 26, 2011 Annie Talley rated it did not like it
This book was TOTALLY one sided. Unfortunately books like this, at least for me, tend to have the opposite effect. After I read her book I researched the whole incident and these weren't fun loving kids just out laughing and having a good time. They were out for innocent blood, they had a metal pipe, they attacked other joggers, and bicycle riders, and beat one of them so bad he was in the hospital for two days. Maybe they were innocent in the rape of the central park jogger but they were not sa ...more
Many of us remember the horrible rape of the central park jogger in 1989, and the tabloid-like headlines that accompanied the case. What didn’t make the headlines was the fact that the five boys (four under 16) that were tried and convicted of the heinous crime were all exonerated of that crime in 2003. Once the boys were in the system though, the system decided convict them no matter what the facts bore out. Sara Burns does justice to their cases, and reminds us all that our race and class is o ...more
Oct 04, 2016 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's very clear that Burns is not an impartial narrator of the facts of this case. She's not wrong - it's been known for over a decade that the Central Park Five were convicted of a rape they did not commit. However, it can be a bit jarring. I'm used to reading non-fiction books that use more neutral language. It wasn't a problem for me, but it feels prudent to let others know what to expect going into the book.

That having been said, I thought this was well-researched, well-written, interesting,
Sep 25, 2014 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-researched, carefully written, nuanced account of an incident in 1989 that still generates extreme opinions on all sides. Burns gives a full account of the trial of the young men who were accused of raping Trisha Meili, the "Central Park Jogger." The trial unleashed a torrent of racist commentary disguised as disgust over the grisly rape. Burns shows that the five accused were convicted by the police and in the media without anyone giving a second thought to alternative theories. The fear ...more
Marnie Lansdown
Sep 04, 2015 Marnie Lansdown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a couple of reviews on this book and was surprised to read that there are complaints with the...I guess you'd call it the tone...of this book. "Hindsight is always 20/20," they say, and seem annoyed that the author points out the mistakes that were made. I agree that hindsight is 20/20, because in hindsight you can really see how many mistakes were made by the police and prosecutors. Sarah Burns lays out the entire Central Park jogger case, using meticulous research, from the start to the ...more
Alison Frye
I'm glad I read this book. It's shocking how blind people can be to the truth when they make assumptions, and also sad how often those assumptions are based on race and stereotypes. A sad portrayal of the "justice system" in NYC in the 1980s, when the city was tanking and people were desperate for progress of any kind. The bloodthirst turned my stomach, and the unwillingness of the prosecutors and detectives to admit their errors just plain pisses me off.
Aug 12, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, cops, non-fiction
This is a fascinating story telling of a miscarriage of justice of five young boys in New York who were convicted of a brutal rape on a female jogger. Having read the book and now seen documentaries about this, I was surprised I knew nothing about it. From all reports, this story was apparently huge in the states but does not seem to have made an impact over here in Scotland.

The story, I admit is very tough to read. I was sitting absolutely boiling with rage at how these boys were treated and it
Probably closer to a 3.5.

A lot of the reviews I read for this book were lowered, according to the readers, by the fact that these young men weren't "innocent" of all the crimes in Central Park that took place on that night. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever claimed that. They may or may not have been guilty of nothing more than being caught up in a large group of hoodlums, or of actually taking part in several muggings. But it's a long way from that scenario to being railroaded into t
Dec 03, 2012 Kimio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true story of the travesty of justice that occurred in 1989 and changed the lives of 5 innocent youths who were charged & imprisoned with the rape of the "Central Park Jogger". Great read. Thank you for sharing their story.
Paul Froehlich
Sep 11, 2016 Paul Froehlich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The brutal rape and battering of the Central Park jogger was one of the most notorious crimes in the last quarter century. It is also a notorious case of false confessions. Unfortunately, the lessons from that miscarriage of justice in 1989 have not been promptly applied by the criminal justice system to prevent similar injustice.

The Central Park Five tells the painful story of five minority teens -- ages 14, 15 and 16 -- who confessed to the heinous interracial crime and were convicted, though
Lydia LaPutka
Jun 14, 2013 Lydia LaPutka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt compelled to read this book after watching a PBS special on the "Central Park Five." Honestly, the entire thing is unbelievable. It blows the mind that our court system could be so broken. The lives of 5 young boys and their families were ruined by the ambitions of public figures who seemed to care only for their own agendas. Five lives thrown away because of public outcry and the need to blame someone for a heinous crime. It is absolutely heartbreaking. Even more outrageous is that the s ...more
Tom Mueller
Jul 16, 2011 Tom Mueller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, political
The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding is more than a typical true crime tome; it is as much a socio-economic statement. Much of the racial stereotyping present in the late 1980s continues to this day, as it has for over 200 years. Racial profiling contributed to their conviction, with the help of sensational National Media. Sarah Burns and Ken Burns are working on a documentary of the incident, which I will view when it is available. The young men were exonerated after they had co ...more
On its surface, Sarah Burns’s book is the story of the Central Park Jogger and the trial that followed her brutal attack and rape; it recounts the process that led to the wrongful conviction of five African-American teenage boys. However, the reader quickly realizes there is much more to this book than just this story. It is also an indictment of law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the media, and the general public, and by virtue of the facts Burns presents, it is immediately obvious t ...more
Jun 22, 2011 Shawn rated it liked it
A horrible book about five teenagers who are locked up for raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989.
SPOILER ALERT Turn back now, plot revealed below.
They are guilty of being black and hispanic, but innocent of rape. These poor bastards serve out their entire sentences, some longer than 10 years before the rapist is connected through DNA to be the actual perpetrator. As sometimes occurs in such a case, the prosecutor asserts that the people she convicted really are guilty, even though DNA proves a
Dec 28, 2011 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-researched book that shows yet another travesty of justice: Five innocent boys convicted of a murder in what amounted to a modern-day lynching. The info on how cops get the innocent to confess was fascinating and deeply disturbing. I honestly started thinking about developing a lesson plan for high school and college students explaining to them what their rights are and what not to do when threatened by the police, e.g. don't think that by telling them what they seem to want to hear means ...more
David Ward
The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding by Sarah Burns (Alfred A. Knopf 2011)(364.153) is a recounting of a crime from the early 1990's before New York City cleaned itself up and reduced crime. A white female bond trader from Salomon Brothers was attacked while jogging in Central Park at night. Five members of a group of approximately 33 young black males ages 13-16 were arrested following a night of "wilding" in the park; they were questioned for up to 30 hours with and without the ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Irwin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll say this, the pages do turn. That said, what I was hoping for was a real sense of NYC, circa 1990 when this crime happened. It did that, but not as well as it could have. This crime came to symbolize NYC's decline, and probably lost Ed Koch his job. But Ms. Burns constant editorializing from the far left could make MSNBC cringe. In fact, it was so over the top, whatever sympathy you had for those who were wrongly accused were stifled by Ms. Burns patronizing "lessons of racism" tone.
Jun 01, 2012 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, crime
I wanted to like this book more. Sarah Burns is a concise writer, and the story is of the utmost importance, but something was lacking. I can't quite put my finger on it. However, it's critically important - especially for people who do not believe that the police lie, or that false confessions are rare. They do, and they are not. These boys, now men, served too many years of their life in prison for a horrific crime they had nothing to do with. It is shockingly easy to end up serving a sentence ...more
Jul 05, 2015 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. I was at Wellesley when the rape occurred and we knew the victim was an alumnae. Watching the story unfold was terrifying as a young woman. After the indictments were reversed ten years later, I remember wondering how it all happened. Now reading this book, it seems clear that a total mockery of the justice system occurred. Thanks to Sarah Burns for writing this excellent account.
Jul 27, 2014 Kris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. Scary that this kind of injustice could have happened as recently as 1990. That said, I didn't feel like the author painted a clear and distinctive picture of each of the five future defendants from the beginning so it was a little difficult to keep all the interrogations and stories and bits of evidence straight. Worth reading but it took a bit of effort to get through.
Dec 24, 2012 Jose3030 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually, folks tell you to read the book before you 'see the movie' but in my case, I think I needed to see the documentary first. It helped set the table for me, to help visualize the late 80s in NYC and the overall environment that these kids faced.

While completely unfair what happened to these kids, the documentary never let me 'grasp' why things happened as they did. It almost seemed more unfair in the movie than described in the book. The book helped fill in the details which helped me unde
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