Title: The Nickel Boys

Author: Colson Whitehead

Pages: 213 Pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

The Blurb

Author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in 1960s Florida.

Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide ‘physical, intellectual and moral training’ which will equip its inmates to become ‘honorable and honest men’.

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s ringing assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But Elwood’s fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.

The tension between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.

Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.

The Review

I was so dubious going into The Nickel Boys. Colson Whitehead is so revered as a writer I felt like I could only be disappointed by the hype. I was wrong.

The Nickel Boys tells the story of a real reform school in America and the harsh treatment that the inmates received. It follows inmate Elwood Curtis, a young man who was wrongly imprisoned and how this imprisonment was racially motivated.

It is hard to talk about the story without giving too much away but I will say that it is a great pay off novel.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is available now.

For more information regarding Colson Whitehead (@colsonwhitehead) please visit www.colsonwhitehead.com.

For more information regarding Little, Brown Book Group (@LittleBrownUK) please visit www.littlebrown.co.uk.

Title: When We Were Young

Author: Dawn Goodwin

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Head of Zeus

The Blurb

Four best friends. One of them is dead. Are their secrets safe? 

Uni friends Stacey, Paula, Bev and Valentina used to be inseparable until one weekend before graduation when nothing was ever the same again.

Thirty years later, reunited at Valentina’s funeral, Stacey receives a letter written by her late friend asking for one last wish… that the three friends go back to where things fell apart and finally bury the hatchet.

As they revisit their old haunts of their uni days and follow a series of clues left by Valentina, their friend’s death begins to look suspicious and it is up to them to find out what happened – but they all have secrets to hide.

They say good friends are hard to come by, but when there is so much at stake and someone is lurking in the shadows, how do you know who is a friend and who is a foe?

The Review

One of my favourite things to read about is friendship. I love a story which looks at the nuances of friendship so imagine my excitement when I picked up When We Were Young and along with friendship I get the added element of a murder mystery.

When news of Valentina’s death comes the panic of Stacey, Paula and Bev rises. See, the four girls have a secret, one which one of them has taken to the grave…or has she.

When We Were Young looks back at toxic friendship and how one persons obsession can land others into a whole world of trouble.

This is a great book to read and allows you to remember the friendships of your youth and begin to wonder whether they were are innocent as you thought.

When We Were Young by Dawn Goodwin is available now.

For more information regarding Dawn Goodwin (@DGoodwinAuthor) please visit www.dawngoodwin.com.

For more information regarding Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: Cheer the F**k Up – How to Save Your Best Friend

Author: Jack Rooke

Pages: 403 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House

The Blurb

This book will definitely make you laugh and might just make you cry, but it could also help save a life.

Cheer the F**K Up is a bold, brilliant and very personal account of a young comedian’s experiences with mental health. An ode to the importance of friendship, Jack Rooke takes us on a mission to better understand the reasons why so many people are struggling, and how we can all feel better equipped in knowing how to support that one friend we might be that bit more worried about.

Part comedic memoir, part advice guide, this book is a fresh and timely take on a huge issue very close to Jack’s heart – in 2015, while working as an ambassador for a male mental health charity, he lost one of his best friends to suicide.

Taking you on a journey through his life and experiences with grief, sexuality, depression and more, Jack offers his own frank and powerful advice on how best to have meaningful conversations about a loved one’s state of mind. Hilarious and heart-breaking in equal measure, Cheer the F**K Up will definitely make you laugh and might just make you cry, but it could also help save a life.

The Review

I’m going to get this out of the way right now and say that Cheer the F**k Up is the best book I have read about mental health.

And with that out of the way let me tell you why. Jack Rooke attacks mental health with heart, compassion and humour. I know that sounds wrong but sometimes when things all fall apart the only thing you can do is laugh.

This book deals with so many things such as love, loss, sexuality, death, suicide and never did I feel like Rooke fudged it. He treated each area of this narrative sensitively and even at its most difficult it was a great thing to read.

So, once again I reiterate, Cheer the F**k Up is the best book about mental health that I have ever read.

Cheer the F**k Up by Jack Rooke is available now.

For more information regarding Jack Rooke (@jackrooke) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin Random House (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: Ten Years

Author: Pernille Hughes

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

The Blurb

Becca and Charlie have known each other since university.

Becca and Charlies have also hated each other since university.

Until now. Until Ally’s bucket list. The death of their loved one should mean they can go their separate ways and not look back. But completing the list is something neither of them can walk away from.

And sometimes, those who bring out the worst in you, also bring out the very best…

Over the course of ten years, Becca and Charlie’s paths collide as they deal with grief, love and life after Ally.

Not since Emma and Dex in One Day and Will and Lou in Me Before You will you root for a couple as much.

The Review

This year I made a decision not to read books if I’m not hooked by page 50. Well, I needn’t have worried with Ten Years because I was hooked within the first few minutes of reading.

It is the story of the thin line between love and hate and how those who straddle that line shouldn’t underestimate the power of both.

It is the story of Becca and Charlie – frenemies who have been brought together through tragedy and who have to weave in and out of each others lives whether they like it or not.

This is the perfect love to hate you story and I did not want it to end.

Ten Years by Pernille Hughes is available now.

For more information regarding Pernille Hughes (@pernillehuges) please visit her Twitter account.

For more information regarding Harper Collins (@HarperCollinsUK) please visit their Twitter account.

Title: Trespasses

Author: Louise Kennedy

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Blurb

Cushla Lavery lives with her mother in a small town near Belfast. At twenty-four, she splits her time between her day job as a teacher to a class of seven-year-olds, and regular bartending shifts in the pub owned by her family. It’s here, on a day like any other – as the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploding, another man shot, killed, beaten or left for dead – that she meets Michael Agnew, an older (and married) barrister who draws her into his sophisticated group of friends.

When the father of a young boy in her class, becomes the victim of a savage attack, Cushla is compelled to help his family. But as her affair with Michael intensifies, political tensions in the town escalate, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.

As tender as it is unflinching, Trespasses is a masterfully executed and intimate portrait of those caught between the warring realms of the personal and political, rooted in a turbulent and brutally imagined moment of history – where it’s not just what you do that matters, but what you are.

The Review

I have been looking for a book with the Troubles at the centre of the story. Not so that I can relate to it. The Troubles didn’t affect me, I’m not Irish but I have wanted to learn more since reading the Kevin and Sadie books as a teenager. I’ve read a few but none have been as impactful as Trespasses by Louise Kennedy.

The story of Cushla Lavery and her conflicted feelings about her heritage versus her heart is a powerful read. For me, what makes it so compelling is the ordinariness of shocking events. The violence is presented as commonplace. That’s not to say that the characters in the story weren’t sympathetic or angered but just that they were almost used to it. Desensitised.

Trespasses is compelling and Cushla Lavery is a character I won’t forget for a very long time.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy is available now.

For more information regarding Louise Kennedy (@KennedyLouLou) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Bloomsbury Books (@Bloomsbury Books) please visit www.bloomsbury.com.