Nicholas Dane

Melvin Burgess

Square Fish



Trade Paperback

432 Pages


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When fourteen-year-old Nicholas Dane's mother dies, social services sends him to a home for boys where intimidation and violence keep order. After a number of fights and brutal punishments, Nick thinks that life can't possibly get any worse . . . until he realizes that the home's respected deputy head, who has been grooming him with sweets and solace, has something more frightening in mind.

Acclaimed writer Melvin Burgess brings us, with Dickensian scope and compelling narrative drive, his most ambitious book yet.


Praise for Nicholas Dane

"As unsettling as readers will find this dark story, it is no Dantesque vision but rather a tough examination, an almost sociological case study at times, of what happens when a pretty good kid enters a truly bad system. Readers familiar with Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist will find obvious parallels here that will deepen their appreciation for Burgess's novel."—Horn Book Magazine
"While it is disturbing to think that the plot of Oliver Twist slots seamlessly into a more contemporary story, Burgess' stark realism and unflinching portrayal of the life and prospects of kids trapped in an ineffectual juvenile care system is undeniably credible, mostly because he is so effective in creating psychologically complex characters."—BCCB

"A small note of hope ends this gripping but harsh tale."—Kirkus Reviews

"Burgess is a genius in drawing readers into a compelling, dramatic, and candid read. He examines the dark underbelly of society and the powers that corrupt and exploit its youth, yet offers an ultimately positive and hopeful message. This book will stay with readers long after they put it down."—School Library Journal

"Burgess writes with harrowing authenticity about the dynamics of abuse, and the fragile healing suggested at the book's end will leave readers asking wider questions about how best to reclaim and protect society's most vulnerable individuals."—Booklist
"A powerful and gripping tale . . . Harrowing and intense, and he excels at getting inside the heads and motivations of his many flawed characters."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt



Nick Dane lifted his head and stared blearily at the doorway. There was music blaring through, light flooding in. It sounded as if he was in the kitchen but he could have sworn he was still in bed.

Read the full excerpt


  • Melvin Burgess

  • Melvin Burgess is the author of many novels for young adult and middle-grade readers. Among them are Doing It (a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age), The Ghost Behind the Wall (Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year) and Smack (winner of Britain's Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for Fiction, as well as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults). In 2001, he wrote the novelization of the film, Billy Elliot. Mr. Burgess lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in England.

  • Melvin Burgess
    Melvin Burgess