on March 22nd 2011
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.
Nickel is his alias, and he runs all sorts of scams to hurt the pedophiles in this world. You find out quickly, how jaded Nickel is, but he can't even resist his hormones when he meets Arrow and falls in love. He takes on her case of a missing sister for free and finds himself entangled in a case that proves dangerous and worth all the risks. I love the realistic edge this book has, the way that the reader can just feel Nickel for everything he has. He's brilliant in a way that really opens your eyes to the realism he sees and that exists around us.
This plot definitely moved – there were some side jobs, but the book focused on Arrow and her need to find her sister Shelby. There's a great scene in the book that I promise not to give too much away about but there's a shootout at some point and it just reminded me of a scene from a movie, that's how well it was written. And I think I actually hollered during the scene because it was so good and kept you on the edge. It was also a "YES" moment, in a good way – I can't explain it. You need to go out and buy the book and read it and you'll know exactly what I mean. So good.
I seriously think this is the best book I've read all year and will be the best book of the year for me, no doubt. Now, I just hope that Aric Davis will write a brilliant second novel featuring the young and awesome Nickel, for I need to see more of his adventures.
Nickel was a totally killer character. Someone wrote that he was a bit like Artemis Fowl, but I can't completely agree. He's definitely an anti-hero, a kid who you'd probably pass by on the street and think nothing of. But he's incredibly cunning, filled with this amazing ambition to put away pedophiles for good, even if it costs him his life doing it. And he has all the street-smarts as well. He knows even when he has to grocery shop, he has to act like a normal kid again. He has precise methods to what he does and how he does it and he is the least kid-like kid I've ever read in a novel. Definitely a jaded and adult-like character, but Nickel still has a bit of innocence in him and that comes out when he is with Arrow.
Arrow is also an incredible character. Someone who is sure of herself and is genuine with Nickel, more than I think you understand from his point of view. She's beautiful and determined and doesn't hesitate to do what she needs in order to get her sister back.
And I love all of the characters. Especially Eyepatch, the random guy who sits at the park each day and Rhino, a man who runs a gym that teaches people to fight and believes in Nickel more than anyone else in the novel – even if he doesn't outright show it. And even Lou, the driver is an interesting character. All of the characters in this book pop out at you and come to life. I'll say it again, you need to go and buy this book now.
Final Verdict: For anyone who hates pedophiles, loves anti-heros, and can deal with the nitty-gritty realism of life – this is a book for you.