Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess

Title:  Nicholas Dane 
Author:  Melvin Burgess 
Genre:  Young Adult)
Publisher:  Penguin Group (Imprint: Puffin) 
Publication Date:  13th July 2010 (Australia) 
ISBN:  978-0-141-31633-8 
Stand alone or series:  Stand Alone 
Pages:  416  
Book Received from:  Penguin Group (Penguin Books) 
First Lines:  Nick Dane lifted his head and stared blearily at the doorway.

When Nicholas's mum overdoses on heroin, the fourteen-year-old is suddenly lost, grieving and alone.  Sent away to a boys home, Nick finds order is kept by intimidation and violence.

After countless fights and punishments, Nick thinks life can't get any worse.  But the deputy head, Mr Tony Creal, has other ideas.

The shame Nick experiences at the hands of Mr Creal can never quite be forgotten and, when Nick discovers he wasn't the only one to suffer, the old hatred later resurfaces.

Can revenge lay Nick's ghosts to rest - or will he never be free of them?

My Thoughts
I always read the synopsis on the back of books but for some reason when I began reading this I thought well it seems like the usual single parent family, but once I hit page 7 whammo!!  I knew this was coming but it still took me by surprise.

Nicholas Dane is a typical 14 year old bad boy, skipping school and smoking while his mother studies to better herself.  When Muriel dies unexpectedly Nick is left with absolutely no family whatsoever and is forced into a boys home.  Before I say anything more, the year is 1984 when Nick goes into the home.  The adults at Meadow Hill are strict and brutal while the boys each take turns in causing fights, which ends Nick in more trouble for standing up for himself.  The story does take a darker turn when more incidents occur and I was quite shocked at the events that take place within the pages.

Nick is such a strong character throughout the story, dealing with what life and others throw at him and still pulling through and surviving.  While I didn't agree with alot of Nick's choices throughout, it is understandable to see how he is pushed into those decisions as a coping mechanism.  As the point of view is in third person omniscient,  Burgess gives us the chance to glimpse into the other characters thoughts, feelings and actions and it really does help when dealing with such dark subjects.

There were a few things I disliked about the story though.  (Slight Spoiler)When Nick and Davey escape Meadow Hill, the past events seems to take a backseat and are forgotten about until closer to the end where it's brought out again.  The ending lacked a satisfying finish.  I found the writing to be slightly rushed and I was disappointed since alot of the novel was such strong writing.  I do think, as it is aimed at a younger audience, that the ending could have had more time spent on it though.

Nicholas Dane is a dark and disturbing novel filled with sexual abuse, drugs and violence, as well as strength and perseverence.  Burgess has done a good job in conveying his characters in a believable and realistic manner.  I do want to say one thing, I think Melvin Burgess is a brave author to write about subjects as these and while I think there are people out there that would be horrified, I do think that these subjects shouldn't be just swept under the rug because they are too hard-to write about.
The age group for this novel has from 12 years and up but I do think from 14 years and up would be more suitable and even then it should all depend on their emotional maturity level. 

Not for the faint hearted or easily upset.


  1. It's a shame that you felt this one was a bit rushed. I'm finding that more and more of late with some of the YA I've been reading. I love to savour language, so rushed prose is a letdown for me.

  2. Hmmm, Mel. This seems like an interesting read based on the synopsis. I'd be interested in seeing how these very serious issues would be handled. I'm also wondering how such sensitive issues could be rushed through.

    Thanks for the honest review.



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