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4.21  ·  Rating details ·  12,343 ratings  ·  663 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - The extraordinary true story of four men who take the law into their own hands.

This is the story of four young boys. Four lifelong friends. Intelligent, fun-loving, wise beyond their years, they are inseparable. Their potential is unlimited, but they are content to live within the closed world of New York City's Hell's Kitchen. And to play as
Paperback, 432 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Ballantine Books (first published 1995)
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Paul Lloyd Yes. I got a cassette tape version from my local library.
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  12,343 ratings  ·  663 reviews

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Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
Sleeper (colloq.): 1. out-of-town hit man who spends the night after a local contract is completed. 2. A juvenile sentenced to serve any period longer than nine months in a state-managed facility.

Long time back, a movie buff friend had highly recommended the movie Sleepers. I never got around to watching the movie but remembered the name. While book hunting in a second hand book shop I came across the book and realized that the movie is based on this book.

The book presents a tale of
I read this once when I was younger and have not read it since. I remember reading this shortly before the movie came out (which I had only seen about once or twice itself) and the events stayed with me ever since then.

The story was a harrowing one exploring the effects of how life can change in an incident with a minor mistake of childhood play. After a childhood prank that ends in the death of a local vendor, the four friends of the book are sentenced to a brutal juvenile prison wh
Possibly the most disturbing book that I have ever read. After I finished it (I was fifteen), I walked around my house in shock muttering "oh my god" over and over. Originally I had picked it up out of a bookshelf without knowing what it was about, so the subject matter was more of a surprise than if I had known what to expect. I actually feel somewhat horrible giving this five stars, but it was an utterly engrossing and captivating book. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend this for most people I kno ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book many years ago when I was in high school and I wanted to re read it to see how I felt about it this many years later. It was still a very hard read. The first part of the book describes the relationships and friendship between the four boys, we get to know their personalities and characteristics and have some insight as to how each of them will cope in this hideous environment. The boys end up in some mischief which has dire consequences, they are sent to a reform school where t ...more
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was the summer of '97 and I got grounded for sneaking out of my bedroom window (again) to meet up with friends to drink warm, pilfered beers and smoke mexican ditch rat-weed (probably).
So while I'm grounded I read this book and I can't put it own. Because I read it so quickly, I still have a week to kill with nothing to do. So i read it again. I had friends come over to try and get me to sneak out again but i blow em off and say 'nah, im good actually, got this book im reading'. That's
Nandakishore Varma
The book is very well written and graphic in its portrayal of violence and sex, but I had a sneaking suspicion it may be mostly fiction even while I was reading it years ago. A quick search on the net now convinces me that there is a huge controversy regarding the veracity of the story.

If it's a true story, it rates five stars.

If it's fiction paraded as truth, it rates only one star.

Since there is no way of establishing the truth, I plumb for three stars.
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author, Lorenzo Carcaterra in his book, "Sleepers" tells the story as himself reflecting back to when he was a boy growing up in Hell's Kitchen (a city in New York) in the 1960's, and a place he and his three other friends were forced to go to after pulling a stupid prank that almost kills someone. This place is a juvenille facility that they soon find out will change their lives forever. There they endure unnecessary verbal, physical and sexual abuse from the guards that watch them.
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ivana Azap Feješ
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I have cried so much... I don't know how can people be so evil - we are talking about the boys here!!! I cannot stand that - the idea that everything here is probably true (for this author), that this kind of thing really happens all around the world, is sooo heart breaking, I, I, I.... I cannot... The book is so good written, and of course Mr. Carcaterra implies that the book is based on a true story.... So many good descriptions of emotions, and characters, and places, and the horrific happeni ...more
Feb 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This is a true story but it reads as fluidly as fiction.
A gritty account of young boys sent to a detention home and the brutality they endured from the guards. Hard to read at times, but compelling.
Essence Michelle
I absolutely fell into the pages of this book. I enjoyed every vivid characters and smiled at the fact that they were at one point real people. The story definitely provides a strong sense of reality that only one who has been abused can relate to. The author was able to convey such images to the reader that could bring one to tears.
The thing I enjoyed the most in this book was the love shared between friends. The main characters knew that no matter what happened in the world or how life c
I read this book a number of years ago and believed every word. This time around I found myself skeptical. It reminded me of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. It was too stylized and unlikely; I could believe it may have had its roots in truth but that doesn't make the story a full truth. The court case seemed particularly unlikely. It is a pretty well-written story but I don't see it as THE TRUTH, just a version thereof most likely. It could, in fact, be lies from beginning to end, but ther ...more
tiffany ☂︎ [ bookish brat ]
Sleeper: 1. Out-of-town hit man who spends the night after a local contract is completed. 2. A juvenile sentenced to serve any period longer than nine months in a state-managed facility.

I purchased this book for two dollars on thriftbooks almost two years ago and I regret that it took me this long to finally read it. It reads so fluently, each chapter melting into the next. It's one of those where you forget you're reading and when you finally look up you've finished one hundred pages.
I fel
*** There is talk that this "based on a true story is just that.....a story! But I'm going on what I read, and that its a telling a real part of a real mans past.

I had been intruded to this movie YEARS ago (I believe 1995-1996) and I knew it had a book on the topic but just never got around to getting it...Fast forward to present time, and I'm walking out a book store and there on a .25cents cart there it is!!!(so I get it!) I knew the premise of the story, as I said I seen the movie before, I
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime, memoir
This is going to be the book to beat this year for Best Read. It's a rich, involving memoir of growing up in Hell's Kitchen and learning to negotiate the ins and outs of that world. From there the rug is yanked out from underneath the author and his best friends and they end up in a whole new nightmare. What follows is apparently also a true story, but to me -- a revenge-minded grudge-holder from way, way back -- it reads like the unlikeliest of fairytales. Beautifully written. My only unanswere ...more
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I pretty much read this book because I had seen the movie a few years ago. I can't really say it was good because of the horrific subject matter, but the author did a great job of telling the story. I could almost see the city, hear the accents spoken. I got emotional at the things happening to the boys, and I cheered when the vengeance came.
I remember going to see the film of this when it first hit the cinemas, so wanted to read this to understand the story some more. It's a tough tale to read. Four friends, growing up in Hells Kitchen, are mainly harmless and spend their childhood roaming free in the neighbourhood. But when one of their pranks goes wrong and a man is seriously injured, they are sent to a Reform School for Boys. Although their sentence is only for a few months, what they find inside is a group of guards determined ...more
Geoff Hyatt
Jul 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you believe this is a true story, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

None of this has ever been substantiated for a reason--it didn't happen. If one good thing came out of the A Million Little Pieces fiasco, it's that we don't have to choke down whoppers like Sleepers anymore. What begins as a passable memoir of a hard-scrabble childhood in Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s quickly strains credulity with twists ranging from the convenient to the absurd. Sadly, the greater truths of abuses w
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lives-of-others
This book was gripping and vividly depicted without superfluous detail.

The characters become very real, you want to reach out to them. I was immersed in the scenery. Even if you'd never been to Hell's Kitchen in the 60s you can be there in this book.

Written by one survivor of abhorrent abuse within a New York juvenile detention centre in the 1960s, this book depicts his life - and the lives of his three friends - before, during and after incarceration in the Wilkinson Hom
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a riveting read and it kept me engaged throughout.

I looked at my bookshelves and realized that I had not added this book. It is a story of four boys growing up in Hell's Kitchen. One day, a prank goes wrong and they end up killing a man by accident. They are sent to the Wilkinson Home for Boys as punishment. It is there that their horrific abuse at the hands of some guards takes place. After being released, they deal with their abuse in different ways.

Years later, two of th
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Put Stephen Kings Shawshank Redemption in one hand, and his The Body in the other. Now put your hands together and you'll have Lorenzo Carcaterra's Sleepers; an allegedly true story of four boys who are united through life by solid friendship, never leaving each others side. An eye opener to what went on behind the bars of justice in the 1960's New York, and the 'wrong side of the law'. A gruesome story of what freedom really meant.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh man, how do I even begin to rate or review this book? I'll start with a synopsis, to buy some time ;)

Four boys from a grittier part of NYC in the '60s, the best of friends, have a rough-but-happy childhood. At some point in the story a prank goes wrong (someone almost dies), and the 4 wind up in a juvenile detention center upstate, where they are brutalized regularly by a quartet of guards. Fast forward 10-15 years, the two boys that turned to a life of crime happen to bump into o
Melissa Rothman
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a goodreads giveaway! well i was very intrigued to read this hard hitting book i had watched the movie a long time ago and really liked it! And well the book and movie are very insync with each other! now i will say that this book is not for the light hearted and can be a trigger book but if you can read it i highly recommend it! the anguish and pain these poor boys and others like them go through is horrific i know that they alway will carry the guilt of the hot dog vendor wi ...more
There is speculation whether this is based on true events or not. I'm not going to get into the argument either way but if it is true, then what happened in this book is abhorrent and unforgiveable. If this is fictionalised, then the events are still abhorrent and could perhaps open up discussions about what could possibly be occurring, or occurred, in these types of homes/prisons.

This is a decent read, and despite the violent and graphic content, it is also quite a quick read. The writing isn'
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely gripping based around 4 boys growing up in Hell's Kitchen (an underlying message that not all bad/horrendous experiences will destroy your life or affect your successes- not always). Based on a true story and extremely disturbing story of raw revenge and trauma. What an exciting book to read.
Hopefully more work of fiction than non-fiction, Carcaterra's Sleepers are an account of friendship, childhood delinquency, sexual abuse and revenge. The book is very easy to read, but extremely hard to digest. If it is really based on true events, the message is very strong and should not be forgotten. If a work of fiction, then it is a rather disgusting, though fairly well written piece.
Marilyn F
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe not quite a 5 but I needed a good book today and this was it ... did not like the start of it all that much, seemed maybe a little more like a documentary or travelogue, but moved into a good well-told story
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, one of the most haunting books I have ever read. Heart wrenching.
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Supposedly true story, that starts out as a coming of age story then evolves into a prison survival story and finally turns into a sweet revenge story. While I have my doubts regarding the veracity of some events none have been disproved. Either way, this was a really great book and I couldn't put it down.
Jennifer Edwards
A classic..reminded me of "The Outsiders" on a larger more contemporary and violent scale. Haunting..
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What Was Your Favorite Scene? 2 26 Feb 11, 2019 01:19AM  
Carcaterra Told His Truth The Way He Had To 1 9 Sep 15, 2018 03:36PM  
Return of the Rog...: Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra 12 8 Jun 18, 2018 08:12PM  
Adaptation: Book ...: Lorenzo Caracattera - 'Sleepers' Controversy 6 23 Jan 18, 2016 11:53PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine editions 2 77 Feb 05, 2014 09:07AM  

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Number-one New York Times bestselling author Lorenzo Carcaterra's highly successful career spans more than 25 years of writing for the diverse fields of fiction, non-fiction, television, and film.

Born and raised in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, Carcaterra landed his first job in the newspaper business as a copy boy for The New York Daily News in 1976. He worked his way up to
“The night and the streets were ours and the future lay sparkling ahead.
And we thought we would know each other forever.”
“Live then, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that, until the day God deigns to reveal the future to man, the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words; Wait and Hope.” 10 likes
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