From the BLURB:
When Nick's mother dies suddenly, the fourteen-year-old is sent straight into a boys' home, where he finds institutional intimidation and violence keep order. After countless fights and punishments, Nick thinks life can't get any worse - but the professionally respected deputy head, Mr Creal, who has been grooming him with sweets and solace, has something much more sinister in mind. The scarring, shaming experience he suffers at the hands of Mr Creal can never quite be suppressed, and when the old hatred surfaces, bloody murder and revenge lead to an unforgettable climax.
Melvin Burgess is a British writer, ‘Nicholas Dane’ is his latest YA novel.
Burgess has been described as a modern-day Dickens, and in ‘Nicholas Dane’ he lives up to the compliment. This is not always a comfortable read – the novel is often bleak, infuriating and terrifying. This is a very twisted modernization of ‘Oliver Twist’; set in 1980’s Manchester, the book is about young Nicholas Dane who is thrown into a boys’ home when his mother dies. But this isn’t an examination of forgotten children in the 18th century – this is the 1980’s and Melvin Burgess writes about the violence and sexual abuse these kids suffer.
The most frustrating thing about the book’s subject matter is how close to home it hits. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, we now know that the foster care system (and any organization that has children in its care) can be rigged by society’s most deviant individuals. ‘Nicholas Dane’ isn’t a memoir, but that doesn’t make the book any less honest or impacting.
Burgess really challenges society, and in ‘Nicholas Dane’ Burgess turns his pen to the black-hole of care homes and the children who get lost in them.
Davey shook his head. He was sick of this. “Stop coming on like some kind of fucking social worker on me,” he said. “We’re out. We’re out! What more do you want?”But in that very Dickensian way, ‘Nicholas Dane’ is a novel that swings between bleakness and hope. And in fact, when there’s so much darkness in the book those radiant moments of optimism and faith shine that much brighter for the reader. Nicholas Dane himself is a beacon of such hope – he’s a tenacious little warrior, and even in his saddest moments he never loses sight of what he believes in.
“I want Creal locked up.”
“Oh, right. You want justice, is that it? There is no justice, Nick. ‘Aven’t you learned that yet?”
Nick looked away. “People like him get locked up...”
“People like him get away with it. Grow up.”
This novel has very strong themes and often graphic scenes. There’s violence and swearing, and I would say this is for a slightly older teen audience... But this is also a book that should be read by adults. And despite the disturbing events in the book, teenagers shouldn’t be shied away from it. This is an impacting book, and any discomfort reader’s feel while reading it will be because it hits so close to the truth.