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The Nickel Boys > PART 2

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben Gigone | 26 comments Mod
This discussion thread will be used to review Part 2 of the Nickel Boys! Quite an engaging read so far!

Do you think Elwood is going to be able to maintain his determination to make the best of his time at the reform school?

How do you feel hearing the stories about the things the white kids did to get thrown in the reform school vs Elwood's accidental situation?

How did you feel about Griff's arc in the story?


message 2: by Ben (new)

Ben Gigone | 26 comments Mod
Great questions lol! I feel like i'm flying through this book. Not sure how I feel about it and also not sure if that makes me a terrible person. I want to be more devastated than I am, hoping Elwood's escape (please lol) will bring this story full circle. I feel like i'm still lacking a character connection, though his friendships with Turner and Harper are keeping me positive that a solution will be found.

So far, yes, I think Elwood will stay strong. From his first experience with punishment to his avoidance of the Earl poisoning situation, Elwood is clearly bent on remaining on the moral high ground. I've been hoping for some compassionate adult to recognize Elwood's ability to keep his head down (or, ideally, him clearly not in league with the school's "delinquents"), though I believe Harper is as close as we'll get. I've been surprised that Elwood's resolve has not rubbed off on any other Nickel Boys, as I assumed some sort of MLK-like revolt would be in the works. Maybe in chapters to come!

This misrepresentation obviously infuriated me. In my opinion, to be literally on his way to college only to be thrown into such terrible circumstances was the toughest injustice of this book so far. It's devastating to think how many countless lives were essentially ruined in schools across the United States for something as trivial as the crimes for which some of the Nickel Boys were indicted. It invokes a sense of helplessness, I can't imagine how these boys and their families felt during these dark times in history.

Griff was a tough one for me. From villain to hero to martyr, Griff's arc was one of a clearly tortured boy. The irony in a school murdering a boy for not being able to count is ridiculous. When comparing with our most recent read (WTCS), a clear distinction between the villain-villain (i.e. Chase Andrews) and tortured-villain (Griff) can clearly be made in the villain's demise. As a reader, you searched for justice of such small magnitude, I would've been content with a change of work placement. To see such an end was heartbreaking. With no chance of redemption, I felt Griff's death more than anything in the book thus far.

Eager to wrap this bad boy up!


message 3: by Earl (new)

Earl (earlgray) | 25 comments Mod
Hello fellow readers,

First off I regret to inform you that I am not enjoying this read. There's nothing to it for me. Yes there's a series of words that form sentences that form paragraphs that form chapters all neatly organized between a hard covering that tells a story. The story is lacking entertainment and or substance.

1. I would like Elwood to escape. But that would make the story too damn interesting so he'll probably be released on good merit and nothing interesting will happen in reality.

2. Having a reform school that combined white and black kids in the era I believe was a step in the right direction. The level of crime severity was a huge difference between the white and black boys. But they all ended up in the same general area which can be viewed as progressive.

3. Griff had been the only touching point in the book for me this far. I would have much rather read and followed 130 pages on Griff and his upbringing/struggle. The fact that he didn't know what round it was broke my heart knowing he would face the ultimate punishment for such a stupid mistake.

"Fuck the free world" - M&M


message 4: by Cullen (new)

Cullen Cousins  (booksbycull) | 5 comments 1. I totally think Elwood will stay as he is throughout the rest of his reform school time. I think he’s understanding what is going on more and how horrible it is but is smart enough to keep a low profile. I’m rooting for him and have more of a connection to him originally but there is still something missing. I really just think it’s the writing lol.

2. Elwood’s situation makes me sad and angry but i don’t think the double standard is emphasized enough in the book.

3. Not sure how I felt about Griff. I feel like his character arc was quick and sporadic. Almost came out of it a bit confused but I understand where Colson was going with it and was sad about the outcome.


message 5: by Tate (new)

Tate Brombal | 8 comments 1. I don’t think there is a “make the best of his time” situation here at this reform school. He only has the choice to bide his time and keep a low profile before he gets out.

2. It’s disgusting and reflective of the racial bias still seen today.

3. Griff was a complicated and tragic character, but no one deserves what happened to him — especially a child. These kids were used and treated like play toys then thrown away at whatever whim. There are no words to capture how horrific that is.

While I am enjoying the book to a certain degree, I am by no means loving it. However, it is not a bad book and Whitehead does have skills as a writer.

Overall, I think what’s not sitting properly with me is the novel’s tone — which I assume must be on purpose. While we are reading truly horrific accounts of abuse and murder, it is all kept at a distance and balanced by an almost lightheartedness. At times the book is written as if it is a summer camp story with the kids joking around or playing imaginary — all of which was probably necessary for their own survival — but it all lessens the impact of what I’m reading. It doesn’t get quite dark or emotional enough. I never have time to properly absorb what’s happening before it moves on to something else. Using a 3rd Person POV definitely keeps us at that distance, and I wonder if the book had been written from Elwood’s POV if I wouldn’t feel such cold separation. At times the narration is clinical, when I wish it better captured the true atrocity and emotion — which obviously is no easy feat.

By no means is there any shortage of substance. This is history, and all of this happened to young kids. It is important to know and I am learning. The fact that all of this is based on true events is very harrowing... I just wish I enjoyed the story itself more. To be honest, I struggle to remember which character is which because there are just so many names and stories recorded. I do think I connect with Turner the most though.


message 6: by Tanner (new)

Tanner Vandenberg | 20 comments I'll have to agree with the blunt words of Earl and the analysis of the tone given by Tate. I can't get into the emotions and depth of this story because Colson allow the reader to do so.

1. I think Elwood may have a breaking point, however for some reason the story seems to have shifted towards Turners perspective leaving me to feel rather disconnected from Elwood's story.

2. Honestly I'm struggling to remember some of the stories that landed the white kids into Nickel. I do recall feeling the injustice of Elwood's circumstances, but what caused more emotionally frustration to me was how even within the school Elwood could find no glimmer of hope.

3. Part of me was rooting for Griff to say fuck it and go out in a blaze of glory, his oppressors be damned. In the end, even tho Griff was a grade A baddie, you couldn't help but feel for him with the tragic outcome. As dark as his death sentence is, you don't really get time to experience it. It's tragic, but it's not as heavy as it should be.


message 7: by Tanner (new)

Tanner Vandenberg | 20 comments ^ did not proof that post, so please forgive any errors.

*Colson does not allow the reader to do so


message 8: by Blayne (new)

Blayne Smith | 11 comments I’m sorry book club.

This book has been a huge upset. This is the second book I’ve read from Colson Whithead and the first was disturbing but much easier to connect with the characters.

I can’t help but feel utterly detached. This reminds me of another book I’ve read without the great character development or storyline.

It seems like someone was trying to reach a deadline and mailed it in. I hate to say that because after the Underground Railroad I had high hopes and especially after the last book club choice I thought I was sure to enjoy this book a lot.

I hope that the next selection is better received here.

I feel like we will not be disappointed by October’s book.

But unfortunately I was not engaged enough to make much of a comment on the matters our great leader wanted to discuss and for that I sincerely apologize to both Ben, and our great book club.

#MakeBookClubGreatAgain


message 9: by Blayne (new)

Blayne Smith | 11 comments Book club*


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