“Nicholas Dane” by Melvin Burgess

Henry Holt & Company, 2009

The year is 1984. Nick was a typical 14 year old in a single parent home, until the day he came home to find his mom had died of a heroin overdose and his life is turned upside down. Sent to an orphanage, things went from bad to worse. Seen as more prison than home, Nick faces daily beatings from both staff and other boys as well as rape from the director. After managing to escape with his streetwise friend Davey, Nick vowed to live on the streets rather than face another orphanage.

From this point on, the book takes on Oliver Twist-like tones with Davey (Artful Dodger) introducing Nick (Oliver) to Sunshine (Fagin), a local weed smoking buyer of stolen goods. NIck struggles to find his place in life and get past the horrors of the orphanage, while his rich uncle can’t decide if he wants to take care of him and his mother’s best friend tries to keep him out of the home and get him to live with her, despite his interfering social worker.

Notwithstanding its similarities to “Oliver Twist,” there are many dark tones to “Nicholas Dane,” including the issues of physical, mental and emotional abuse of homeless young children down on their luck.

Recommended for mature high schoolers.

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