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.
“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
“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
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.