Thursday, January 11, 2024

Review | The Reformatory by Tananarive Due

The Reformatory is a work of literary horror fiction by Tananarive Due.

A gripping, page-turning novel set in Jim Crow Florida that follows Robert Stephens Jr. as he’s sent to a segregated reform school that is a chamber of terrors where he sees the horrors of racism and injustice, for the living, and the dead.

Gracetown, Florida
June 1950

Twelve-year-old Robbie Stephens, Jr., is sentenced to six months at the Gracetown School for Boys, a reformatory, for kicking the son of the largest landowner in town in defense of his older sister, Gloria. So begins Robbie’s journey further into the terrors of the Jim Crow South and the very real horror of the school they call The Reformatory.

Robbie has a talent for seeing ghosts, or haints. But what was once a comfort to him after the loss of his mother has become a window to the truth of what happens at the reformatory. Boys forced to work to remediate their so-called crimes have gone missing, but the haints Robbie sees hint at worse things. Through his friends Redbone and Blue, Robbie is learning not just the rules but how to survive. Meanwhile, Gloria is rallying every family member and connection in Florida to find a way to get Robbie out before it’s too late.

The Reformatory is a haunting work of historical fiction written as only American Book Award–winning author Tananarive Due could, by piecing together the life of the relative her family never spoke of and bringing his tragedy and those of so many others at the infamous Dozier School for Boys to the light in this riveting novel.

I can't do this book justice so I'm not even going to try, but I do want to jot down some thoughts about The Reformatory.

First and foremost, this book is a masterpiece. Tananarive Due is an incredible writer, and this book is remarkable. If the world would allow a horror book to win all of the literary prizes, I think The Reformatory deserves all of the literary prizes.

The second point I need to make is this is a tough read. One particular chapter had me shaking so much I couldn't even type my thoughts to the friends I was reading this with. I'm not sure that's happened in any other book that I've read. This was a powerful read.

I wish I could do a deep dive into the layers of racism, injustice, grief, hauntings, friendship, family, and so much more, but this book is important to experience the way Tananarive Due intended. The book description does a great job blurbing what the book is about.

I give The Reformatory the highest of recommendations, but I also need to state there's child death, child abuse, and child sexual assault along with violence and racism and other content warnings that you may need to seek out prior to reading.

5/5 stars

Source: personal purchase (audio). This is a review of my reading experience.


Subscribe: rss Follow: twitter goodreads Contact: email


  1. This sounds like such an affecting story and deals with some big topics. It also sounds like the author did an incredible job with it.

  2. This sounds like a story that would be good for book club. I'm going to suggest it to mine. Thanks for the review.

  3. Sounds like you really enjoyed this one.

  4. Yes, yes yes - to everything you said. This is such a powerful book, absolutely shocking, horrific, scary, emotional - everything.
    Lynn :D

  5. Fantastic review! This sounds amazing.


Follow Me on Twitter! RSS Feed Email Me! Friend Me on Goodreads! Follow Me on Instagram!

Powered by Blogger