The Reformatory

S. & S. Audio. Oct. 2023. 20:51 hrs. ISBN 9781797160139. $29.99. HORROR
Due (The Wishing Pool and Other Stories) revisits Gracetown School for Boys in her horrifying new novel. While it’s true that Gracetown is particularly haunted, and most of its students come across haints on campus, the real horror Due communicates is the cruel racism of 1950s Florida. Robbie Stephens Jr. is sentenced to six months at this particularly hate-filled and abusive institution after kicking a white boy to protect his sister Gloria. He immediately catches the attention of Warden Haddock, whose cold, barely concealed violence makes it no surprise that the grounds are haunted by countless children. Meanwhile, Gloria fights in to secure her brother’s release. Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt voices Gloria’s strength and despair alongside her chilling performance of Robbie’s terror. Her narration leaves no doubt that behind the siblings’ soft voices and fear is an unshakable strength born from their family and community bonds. An afterword lets listeners know that Due based the novel on actual events and family history, which deepens the horror even further.
VERDICT Incredibly written and performed historical horror that, though heartbreaking, might give modern readers a spark of hope.
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