No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin

May 3, 2012
By Kelsie Antill BRONZE, Charleston, West Virginia
Kelsie Antill BRONZE, Charleston, West Virginia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Book Review
Title: No Choirboy
Author: Susan Kuklin
Number of Stars: 5 of 5

No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin is a documentary-type book about men in prison who were sentenced to death row while they were still teenagers. This book tells the world their individual stories. No Choirboy also includes interviews from the families and lawyers of death row victims. The book projects the idea that a person is not defined by a crime alone, no matter how horrible, and that people change. No Choirboy has a sympathetic tone to it. The intended audience may be people of any age, primarily teens or parents of incarcerated children. This review is to inform any potential reader on the contents and plot of the book No Choirboy.

No Choirboy tells the individual stories of Nanon Williams, Roy Burgess, and Mark Melvin. Nanon was convicted on charges of murder, even though a witness that had testified against him later recanted his statement and made it clear that Nanon was not the man that pulled the trigger. Nanon was sentenced to death at age seventeen despite the new information. Mark Melvin was fourteen when his brother requested his help for something. Mark’s brother didn’t want help with something simple such as doing the dishes or walking the dog. Mark’s brother wanted him to help commit a murder. So Mark went along and shot a man, saying, “I knew my life was over the moment I pulled the trigger. I was just as guilty of the wife’s death too, not because I shot her because I didn’t, but because I was there.”

Sixteen-year-old Roy Burgess had been going out with a group of friends who planned to kill Kevin, one of the boys that had tagged along with them. Roy tried to warn Kevin of the others’ intentions, but it was of no use because the warning was brushed off. The other boys carried out their plan and murdered Kevin, and Roy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Roy did not participate in the actual killing, he was just there. He was still sentenced to death.

No Choirboy also tells about what life is like living on death row. Conditions are dangerous and stressful, with many drug deals, violent fights, and homosexual rapes happening daily. The constant state of living in fear pushes the inmates further and further from their sense of humanity, causing them to act like animals. Some individuals tell about guards randomly attacking inmates and beating them down for no reason. On death row, whenever an inmate is executed, the entire row screams in unison at the top of their lungs in protest.

The main idea of No Choirboy is that a lot of the time the United States legal system is unfair, handing innocent people unfair sentences and being unwilling to reopen a case due to new information. It makes the legal system seem as if it endlessly “throws away” human beings without a second thought. No Choirboy demonstrates that people can change in prison and become different, no longer being a threat to society. Nanon Williams became a scholar and a published author in prison and is very kind and intelligent. There are many other people in prison that are exactly like Nanon in that they would like to mature themselves emotionally and mentally because they grew up in prison, raised by other inmates instead of the mothers and never being exposed to the real world. They would like to go into the world and make a positive difference. Some people just need second chances.

No Choirboy is an enlightening documentary about death row inmates Nanon Williams, Mark Melvin, and Roy Burgess. It gives an inside view to prison conditions and a peek into the sometimes unfair American legal system. No Choirboy includes emotional interviews with prisoners and the families and lawyers of the imprisoned. This is a great book and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a great read for just about anybody.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.


MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!