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NICHOLAS DANE by Melvin Burgess


by Melvin Burgess

Age Range: 15 & up

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9203-5
Publisher: Henry Holt

Coming from England, this bleak, violent, slang-inflected street saga exposes the machinations of power and villainy in Manchester's social services and criminal underworld. The year is 1984, and 14-year-old Nicholas Dane loses his mother and only known relative to an unexpected heroin overdose. An ineffective social worker decides leaving Nick with his mother's close friend is not in the teen's best interest and sends him to Meadow Hill, a home for boys. Violence from both staff and other boys is vicious and near-constant, and the one seemingly compassionate figure there turns out to be a terrifying master manipulator who sexually abuses boys with impunity. Institutional cruelty, domestic violence and the horrors of addiction are depicted in graphic and occasionally prurient detail. The omniscient narrator incisively explicates how shame, fear, anger and desperation motivate horrific acts, and Nick's transformation from warmhearted troublemaker to angry, secretive street kid illustrates both the effects of deliberate mistreatment and the uselessness of government intervention. A small note of hope ends this gripping but harsh tale. (Historical fiction. 15 & up)