The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding
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The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  329 ratings  ·  72 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...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
Mike Sinagria
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
Lisa Regan
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
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...more
"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...more
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

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...more
Annie Talley
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
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.
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...more
Lydia LaPutka
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
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
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...more
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
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
Nenia Campbell

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I'm a sucker for books about history. I guess it's because I got a late start on it in life. My history teachers in school were not so great, and it wasn't until I started reading books on my own that I realized history can be fascinating and very relevant...if presented well.

Burns's summary of the Central Park Jogger case is very well done. The Central Park Jogger rape happened in 1989, the year I was born. It involved the rape...more
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.
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...more
Ricky Gurrola
1. Plot Overview (Don’t give the ending away!) What did you like about the plot? Did it move quickly or slowly? What didn’t you like? Was it interesting or not? Why? Give details!

Im enjoying the book so far,

2. Character Overview: Who were you favorite characters? Describe them—what were they like? Did they remind you of someone? Who/how? How are you like them, even in small ways?

Kevin Richardson really stood out to me, he was one of four accused serial rapist. i picture them as

3. Theme Overvie...more
I watched the documentary a couple months ago and decided that I should read the book as well. I finally got the book from the library and I'm glad I did. It was easier to follow the book and keep the facts straight, which I sometimes got confused with when they were switching between the 5 boys in the documentary. It really makes my blood boil going over the facts again. I just dont understand how so many people could just ignore the inconsistencies between the boy's stories when its so glaring...more
LA Carlson
Mar 18, 2013 LA Carlson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to LA by: found at library
Shelves: non-fiction
Five African American and Latino teens charged with crime they didn't commit because NY was intent on solving the crime of rape and attempted murder of a white woman who was jogging in Central Park at night.
This book will make you angry that even in the late 80s and early 90s we are still struggling with racism.
There was no evidence to properly convict these 5 boys and yet they spent years behind bars. While the jogger does not remember the accident she has recovered and go on to make money spea...more
What can you possibly say about a book like this? Giving it four stars feels weird, and saying I enjoyed it very much sounds weird, because the subject matter of this book isn't fun, and it can't even be described as fascinating. It's horrifying, okay? This book deals with a grave miscarriage of justice that happened in 1989, and if I thought the world had gotten better since the 60's and 70's, well, I was wrong.
Incidentally, this is the second book I've read this year that deals with corruption...more
I waivered between 2 and 3 stars for this book because I thought the author's view was biased. Not that she doesn't have a right to write that way but there were times when I felt she was so focused on showing how the boys were wrongly accused of the rape and beating of a young woman she negated the fact that they had and were culpable for other crimes to include beating several people on the night in question. This book is well-researched and written very carefully. I don't agree with the autho...more
The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding, revisits this famous NYC case and infamous miscarriage of justice. In brisk and brutal fashion Sarah Burns reconstructs the crime, the investigation, the courtroom drama, and the ultimate exoneration. What emerges is a tale of scared and overwhelmed teenagers and their families who fell victim to duplicitous detectives, cocky prosecutors, bumbling defense attorneys, an unsympathetic judge, and a sensational news media that helped convict them...more
Burns' book about the Central Park Five is detailed and thorough. She seeks to provide as many facts and paint as accurate a picture of the events that had unfolded. But Burns' own bias is hard to ignore. She does not try to hide this bias, and while I happen to agree with her point of view, I could not help but think throughout the novel that hindsight is 20/20 - it is easy to criticize this case with the technology that we have presently and for the major fact that someone else confessed to th...more
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