The Home for Wayward Girls

Harper. Apr. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9780063276048. pap. $18.99. F
DEBUT Bradley’s timely first novel, though fiction, is reminiscent of documentaries on the same subject: teens who suffer abuse in the name of reforming their supposed wayward behaviors. The book alternates between 1990s teen Loretta and present-day adult Loretta, whose parents, Mama and William, run a ranch that allegedly helps to reform disobedient girls. Parents send their daughters (or sometimes have them forcibly taken by handlers) to the ranch, where hard work is the least of their worries. The residents of the ranch are treated poorly by William and Mama, and suffer abuse at William’s hand, as does Loretta. Loretta and another girl plan to escape once Loretta turns 18, but a series of events forces them to leave earlier. As an adult, Loretta reunites with some of the girls from the ranch and seeks justice. There are a few twists to the story that will keep readers involved.
VERDICT Readers will sympathize with the characters, thanks to Bradley’s writing abilities and subject choice. Homes for “wayward teens” remain a contemporary issue today. Recommended for YA and adult fiction collections.
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