cover image The Reformatory

The Reformatory

Tananarive Due. Saga, $28.99 (576p) ISBN 978-1-982188-34-4

NAACP Image Award winner Due (The Wishing Pool) takes an unflinching look at American racism in this masterful work of historical horror. When Robert Stephens Sr., a Black man, is accused of trying to rape a white woman in 1950 Gracetown, Fla., there’s no chance for justice. He flees to Chicago, leaving his 16-year-old daughter Gloria and 12-year-old son Robert “Robbie” Stephens Jr. behind with promises to be reunited one day. The siblings’ plan to keep their heads down is thwarted when a local white boy makes unwanted advances on Gloria and Robbie kicks him in her defense. He’s sentenced to six months in an austere, prisonlike reformatory school where dangerous punishments, cruel wardens, and the ghosts of past students abound. As the thinly veiled history of the reformatory’s wardens murdering their charges comes to light, Due toggles between Robbie and Gloria’s POVs, with Gloria fighting to free her brother and Robbie fighting for his life against wardens and haints alike. Throughout, Due shows off her undeniable skill for characterization and voice, impressively capturing Robbie’s youth. This harrowing, supernaturally inflected depiction of racism’s unbridled cruelty and the generational trauma it can inflict is sure to stick in readers’ minds. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary. (Oct.)