Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nicholas Dane - book review

I'd like to think of this as a modern day tale from Dickens, but told in the street wise tone that nobody knows quite as well as Melvin Burgess from the streets of Manchester.

It starts out with a typical 14 year old bloke who is your typical "about a boy" nature. Living with his single Mom, who is doing her best to get him up to go to school. Nicholas needs his "Z"'s though. And that is how the story starts.

But once Nic gets out the door, everything starts to unravel. The story takes place in 1987. And I'm certain Burgess must have known an awful lot about the streets then. His narrative feeds into all the characters of the book as it progresses.

Unfortunately, Nic's life changes dramatically when his mother dies, and he is taken off to the boys home which is rather instutionalized. The place where criminals breed. Many of the characters are having a hard time in their own life. Like, Jenny, best friend to Nic's Mom, is hoping to be a drug counselor..only she has a bit of a drug problem herself. People at the institution have their troubles too. Like Mr. James and his depressed wife. Then there is the terrible Tony Creal. But Nic has found his fate. It isn't a nice one. Fighting among the boys, beatings from the prefects.

Then there is Oliver, truly, its like seeing a flashback of a Mark Lester pro-type. He's blond, pretty and of Tony Creal's favorites. Unfortunately, the line "more please"..doesn't ring out..but instead a line that you will think on long after you've read the book.."I don't like it..I don't like.."  Creal is the nice deputy. Or is he?

The thing about Nic, being raised by a single mother, is that he is loyal. He needs his friends, and when you don't have any..what's a boy to do?

So its bad on the inside. Is it any better on the outside for a boy they've marked as a hoodlum? From the social worker to the police. He's not to be trusted. Never.  It doesn't help any to even have a rich relative he's never met, either. This story has so many selfish endeavors on so many levels.

This is a book that looks at abused lives and what becomes of them. Its very emotional and so real. Burgess has a way of taking a reader there and then sorting it out, as well. I found myself wanting more about Nicholas. As all good books I have read, I have a hard time finishing them...because I don't want them to end. I had already consumed Burgess' MY LIFE AS A BITCH and I know how that ended. Not very happily..yet rather real.

Burgess' has shown us.. he knows what a dark world the streets can be in such novels as JUNK and SMACK. He's also did the novelization of BILLY ELLIOT, as well. Of course, my favorite book of his is DOING IT.

Truly, this is a novel that hits you with such an emotional impact. It leaves you, perhaps with a heavy sigh. It lets you walk a little while in the victim's shoes.. to show the reader how they tick and what a little hope might give them.

What can I say, I love Nicholas Dane, but I'm not sure I'd be ready to take a walk on the wild side with him. But who doesn't like a misunderstood bad boy? He's best to be read.

NO CHILD BORN TO DIE . Melvin Burgess held a blogger's writing conference about it back in February.

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