Nickel

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Young Adult -

Robert Wilder, Leaf Storm Press Hard­cover $18.95 (320pp), 978-0-9970207-0-0

High School has not been kind to out­cast duo Coy and Mon­roe, but while things may be look­ing up for one, the other con­tin­ues in a down­ward spi­ral. Nickel, from Robert Wilder, ex­plores the com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships and bal­ance be­tween friends and fam­ily while avoid­ing all the typ­i­cal teenage drama and angst.

As if be­ing named Coy wasn’t dif­fi­cult enough, he also has a mother liv­ing in a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, a well-mean­ing but trag­i­cally un­cool stoner step­dad, and his best friend Mon­roe’s in­creas­ingly de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness has left her with painful sores around her mouth and all over her body. When Mon­roe’s health con­tin­ues to de­cline and Coy con­nects with a pop­u­lar class­mate, a sim­ple school project takes on a whole new depth of mean­ing as a re­port on the duck­billed platy­pus turns into a des­per­ate at­tempt to di­ag­nose Mon­roe with ev­ery­thing from nickel poi­son­ing to a se­vere re­ac­tion to mold.

Nar­rated from Coy’s per­spec­tive, the di­a­logue is fun and fast, with a hu­mor­ously clever in­ner voice of­ten at odds with his mum­bled re­sponses like “I’m real good at pay­ing at­ten­tion. Not so good at talk­ing or what­ever.” Coy’s fas­ci­na­tion with all things ’80s, cre­ative use of vo­cab­u­lary words, and abil­ity to find him­self in ex­tremely awk­ward sit­u­a­tions will in­spire si­mul­ta­ne­ous laugh­ter and winc­ing.

In­sight­ful and heart­felt, Coy’s strug­gle to find his place is easy to rec­og­nize and re­late to while his in­ter­ac­tions with adults and other teens per­fectly cap­ture the spirit and strug­gle of ado­les­cence, “every­body strug­gling to de­fine their ver­sion of nor­mal, and how it all [keeps] shift­ing, all the fork­ing time.”

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