The story of two black teenage siblings, one wrongfully over-sentenced to indefinite time in the titular Reformatory (based on the infamous Dozier School for Boys), the other working from the outside (if you could call Jim Crow-era Florida “outside”) to get her brother out. With a father MIA, having narrowly escaped a lynch mob for trying to unionize, and a mother recently deceased (but not 100% out of the picture), every choice and action made by the teens give the book a one-step-forward-one-landslide-back momentum right up to the last page. Due brilliantly plates an equal parts jailbreak and ghost story, both playing by history’s rulebook, pulling no punches along the way, with neither element hindering the other, which is a feat on its own, but to make it edge-of-seat-worthy with an epic showdown-at-high-noon finish is just extra icing on the icing.
The Reformatory by Tananarive Due, (List Price: $28.99, Saga Press, 9781982188344, October 2023)
Reviewed by Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia