MacKids Spotlight: Nick Brooks

Meet Nick Brooks, author of the breakout YA thriller of 2023, Promise Boys. This is a vital read for educators that shines a glaring light on how the system too often condemns Black and Latinx teen boys to failure before they’ve even had a chance at success. Request Promise Boys on NetGalley here!

How did your own experiences as an educator inspire you to write PROMISE BOYS?

Nick Brooks: My experience as an educator was tremendously inspiring in telling this story, it’s the reason I’m committed to lifting the voices of Black boys. Working specifically with boys considered, “at-risk,” I came across countless, Treys, Ramóns and J.B.s, and my time spent with these young men helped me visualize the main characters of the story. Many of the staff, family, and community characters that make up the world are also inspired by real interactions I had during my time as a teacher.

The story focuses on three students, J.B., Ramón, and Trey, who have all become suspects in a murder and must clear their names. What do you want educators to know about the experiences of Black and Latinx boys in the education system? 

Nick: Some educators will already know this, but I’d like them to understand that Black and Latinx boys in the education system are often misjudged, misdiagnosed, mishandled, miseducated and/or downright mistreated. In addition to giving our students more grace, we as educators, allies and advocates must challenge the existing Education-Industrial Complex and support our children in ways they deserve.

What do you hope educators will take away from this story? 

Nick: Above all, I don’t want this to feel like finger-wagging at teachers, it’s not that. Instead, I hope educators come away reinspired to continue the work they already do. Being an educator is an incredibly hard job and hopefully Promise Boys reminds them of why they’re so needed in our kids’ corner.

Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.

Nick: My 6th grade teacher at Noyes Elementary, Mr. Henry, had the biggest impact on me.  It was the first time a teacher encouraged me to pursue the arts.

What is the first step in your creative process? 

Nick: Brainstorming! I’ll listen to music, go on walks, or even go to a restaurant and just brainstorm before I start writing.

What advice would you give to young writers? 

Nick: Don’t stop writing.  And if you can, try to tell stories that only you can tell.

What was your favorite book when you were a teen?

Nick: Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley


Nick Brooks is an author and award-winning filmmaker from Washington, DC. He is a 2020 graduate of USC’s TV and Film Production program. His short film, Hoop Dreamin’, earned him the George Lucas Scholar Award and was a finalist in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Film Fest. He is currently in development for his first feature film, We Were Born Kings, with Mandalay Pictures. Before becoming a filmmaker, Nick was an educator working with at-risk youth and many of his stories are colored by his experiences with the children and families of his community. He is also the author of Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont. Follow Nick on Twitter and on Instagram.


Promise Boys
By Nick Brooks
On Sale 1/31/23

The Hate U Give meets One of Us Is Lying in Nick Brooks’s Promise Boys, a trailblazing, blockbuster YA mystery about three teen boys of color who must investigate their principal’s murder to clear their own names—for fans of Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, and Karen McManus.

The Urban Promise Prep School vows to turn boys into men. As students, J.B., Ramón, and Trey are forced to follow the prestigious “program’s” strict rules. Extreme discipline, they’ve been told, is what it takes to be college bound, to avoid the fates of many men in their neighborhoods. This, the Principal Moore Method, supposedly saves lives.

But when Moore ends up murdered and the cops come sniffing around, the trio emerges as the case’s prime suspects. With all three maintaining their innocence, they must band together to track down the real killer before they are arrested. But is the true culprit hiding among them?


Thrilling, captivating, and blade-sharpPromise Boys will stay with you long after the last page.” —Karen M. McManus, #1 New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying

“The path to manhood has never felt more ominous than it does in Promise Boys. I was at the edge of my seat trying to figure out if I was reading a story about boys becoming men or boys becoming killers—you will be too. A brilliant pulls-no-punches mystery with bruised hearts at its core.” —Adam Silvera, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of They Both Die at the End

There’s nothing like a book that manages to flawlessly thread subtle social commentary through a propulsive plot carried by complex characters. Promise Boys does that ten times over, and I can’t wait to see this expertly crafted mystery take the world over… while teaching us a thing or two about what it means to be a boy of color in 21st century America.” —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of Dear Martin

Nothing short of astoundingPromise Boys is a spellbinding, propulsive mystery while simultaneously presenting a searing critique of structural injustice, viewed through the eyes of the young men who live with it. I recommend it to anyone who loves books or doesn’t.” —Jeff Zentner, award-winning author of The Serpent King and In the Wild Light

Promise Boys is an edge-of-your-seats, street-smart, exploding-with-talent novel. Three young men fight to overcome the way the world looks at them and become each other’s hope in the process.” —Francisco X. Stork, author of On the Hook

★ “A sharp examination of systematic inequality in urban schools and Black and Latine boyhood. Breathtakingly complex and intriguing.” —Kirkus Reviewsstarred review

Read more author Q&As here!