Nickel is a survivor. He has to be. For as long as he can remember, his life has hinged on the flip of a coin. Or, rather, the scribble of a social worker’s pen. He’s been through the system, even had a good dad for a few years, until he was gone, too. But Nickel remembers everything he taught him, and since the day he escaped from foster-care hell, he’s put that knowledge to good use. Just twelve years old, he makes a steady living by selling marijuana to high schoolers, blackmailing pedophiles he ferrets out online, and working as a private investigator.
When a beautiful girl named Arrow hires him to find her little sister Shelby, Nickel figures at best the kid’s a runaway; at worst, some perv’s gotten a hold of her. He scours the internet and the streets of Arrow’s suburban neighborhood, and what he finds there is as ugly a truth as he’s ever seen. For beyond the manicured lawns, Nickel discovers children for sale, and adults with souls black as the devil. And people like that aren’t about to let some kid ruin their game. This edgy thriller introduces a canny, precocious anti-hero, the likes of which young-adult readers have never seen.
OPINION: 3 STARS
The Short Version:
Bold in concept, Nickel Plated puts a new spin on kid heroes. A protagonist who is very much a product of his upbringing, and unafraid to face the word, Nickel is a unique character. Though the voice didn’t ring quite real enough for me, and the concept and realism didn’t mesh completely, this is still an enjoyable read from a promising author.
The Extended Version:
Nickel is determined and innovative, and though his situation is definitely unusual, he is sympathetic and someone to get behind. His view on the world is very different, a sad result of being bounced around between foster homes as well as events within some of those places. While his overall character comes off as exaggerated, Nickel is a real and sad example of the lasting effects of being in the system.
Arrow comes off as gentle and sweet but has some great qualities and inner strength. United with Nickel in a search for her sister, both the good and bad side of Arrow comes through. Though some of their interactions seemed off given their age difference, the camaraderie between the two and the ways they pushed and improved the other was well done and believable.
The plot is a simple one, centered around the search for Arrow’s sister while still giving a great look into the life Nickel has made for himself. Though only twelve, he lives alone and handles the day to day better than even some adults. Determined to not go back into the system, and refusing to just waste away, Nickel gives a strong voice to plenty of kids who aren’t as lucky. His focus on catching criminals, from kidnappers to molesters, is fantastic and plays a beautiful role throughout.
The writing is practiced and easy to read, giving plenty of description without being too bulky. Though there was a lack of voice, and Nickel’s mental state came across as being far older than twelve, even with his background, his character itself was still easy to understand. This is a quick read, not bothering to overdramatize things or drag them out longer than needed. While this one does have plenty of contemporary elements, I had a hard time fully getting into how embellished Nickel’s day to day and means of survival were. Despite these few things, this was definitely an enjoyable and endearing read.
Source: ARC recieved for review from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 172 pages
Publication Date: March 22, 2011