This debut novel, set in the early 1990s, is about Owen Webb, the son of working-class parents, receives a scholarship to the prestigious Rockcastle Preparatory Academy. He is befriended by the mysterious and enigmatic Carson Bly, an upperclassman from a wealthy and powerful family. Their friendship, deepened through a love of basketball, becomes an obsession for Owen. Desperate to avoid the growing trouble at home between his parents and falling in love with Carson’s beautiful but troubled sister, Owen quickly finds himself caught up in a complex web of events in which loyalty, tradition, power, and sex conflict with morality, love, and the truth.
During the summer before his sophomore year, Owen’s father is arrested for a shocking and unexpected crime. With his family torn apart, Owen’s anger and fear are carefully manipulated by Carson, whose mercurial personality becomes increasingly dangerous. When Carson is thrown off the basketball team and his behavior becomes more erratic, Owen’s friendship with him reaches a breaking point, and their once promising future begins to unravel in a tragic and unavoidable way.
Praise for ALL THE CASTLES BURNED
“Michael Nye’s All the Castles Burned is a kinetic, haunting and gorgeously written debut novel. Nye accomplishes the tremendous feat of narrating the immediacy of youth alongside the long retrospective of nostalgia, drawing readers into Owen Webb’s obsessive high school friendship with Carson Bly. Each page is marked by danger and a ratcheting sense of menace, and yet we also come of age with Owen and experience the heartbreak he feels. This novel is compulsive, harrowing and beautifully rendered, and I couldn’t put it down.”
—Anne Valente, author of Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down
“With ALL THE CASTLES BURNED, Michael Nye claims his place as one of the best new novelists in America. This is an expertly written and crafted story about coming-of-age in a country where class and ambition still clash violently. The characters live and breathe with every page, and there’s never a doubt that you’re in steady hands.”
—Jared Yates Sexton, author of The People Are Going To Rise Like The Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage
“A eerie kind of sensitive menace looms over every page of All the Castles Burned, and Michael Nye builds this beautiful and full-throated story of boyhood friendship and jealousy and anger and love, and then tears it down as these boys call forth the fierce changes they’ve been longing for all of their lives.”
—William Lychack, author of The Architect of Flowers and The Wasp Eater
“Michael Nye’s work is like a richly detailed tapestry, the weaving intricate and compelling. The characters cause the actions because of who they are, and are revealed by what they do and what they fail to do. In other words, as in the best works in our literary canon, Nye’s characters and plots cannot be separated, and we would never want such a separation.”
—Mary Troy, author of Beauties and Swimming on Hwy N
“Michael Nye’s characters are sharp and memorable, and the writing is finely crafted. This is an auspicious and impressive debut novel.”
—John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake and The Inverted Forest
“An erudite tale of boyhood, class struggle, and heartbreaking nostalgia.”
—Levis Keltner, author of The Woods