Book Review - Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

In Nick Brooks first foray into Young Adult books, he establishes himself as an essential voice ala Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds, and Nicola Yoon. Yes, Promise Boys is that good. 

What immediately sets Promise Boys apart is its narrative structure. Young adults are no stranger to a handful of different voices, but Promise Boys immediately blows this structure wide open. Not content with just the three main protagonists of the text, the story begins with the voices of a wide range of characters in or around the main incident. For some, it's people who know the protagonists intimately. Others only have a passing knowledge of the characters. It makes the mystery build methodically and quickly, and the structure also instills enough doubt in the reader to make them guess characters' truths or deceits.

So what's it about? It all begins with the murder of the principal. The main suspects are three boys, each with an apparent motive. But the book layers complexity quickly. The world of Promise Boys is a foreboding tale of an all boys charter school in the DC area gone wrong. Principal Moore, the man murdered, enforces strict disciplinary actions. It's a punitive system that rewards quiet withdrawal versus independent action and thinking. It's not just the boys who are on edge, but the teachers, the staff and even those outside of the school. A palpable anxiety begins with the story, and it never subsides. This book is pulse pounding as characters continually find themselves in worsening situations.

But the world outside of the school also feels palpably dangerous. Gangs, drugs and abuse of a wide range exist on the periphery of the text. Danger becomes omnipresent. And you get to see that danger not only from the three main suspects of the murder, but from parents, administrators, teachers, memos, e-mails, gang members and other bystanders.

The result is that Promise Boys never has a dull moment. At 304 pages, Promise Boys never has time to falter. It moves along briskly and with each chapter rarely more than 5-10 pages, numerous character shifts and time shifts, Nick Brooks crafts one of the most thrilling multi-perspective novels since Courtney Summers' Sadie. 

Promise Boys by Nick Brooks
Release Date: January 31, 2023
MSRP: $13.99


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