The Reformatory: A Novel (Hardcover)

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The Reformatory: A Novel By Tananarive Due Cover Image
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(Hardcover Fiction)

Staff Reviews

Chosen by: Jen

In the Florida panhandle in 1950, Robbie kicks the older boy harassing his sister. Because the boy is white and Robbie is Black, young Robbie is sent to the Gracetown School for Boys, the county reformatory. Due’s crafted a page-turning work of historical fiction, based on the tragedy of her own relative’s time at the Dozier School. It’s harrowing and beautifully written. Once I picked this up, I had a hard time putting it down.


— From Winter Staff Picks


A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winner and a New York Times Notable Book
“You’re in for a treat. The Reformatory is one of those books you can’t put down. Tananarive Due hit it out of the park.” —Stephen King

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.

About the Author

Tananarive Due is an American Book Award and NAACP Image Award­–winning author, who was an executive producer on Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror for Shudder and teaches Afrofuturism and Black Horror at UCLA. She and her husband, science fiction author Steven Barnes, cowrote the graphic novel The Keeper and an episode for Season 2 of The Twilight Zone for Paramount Plus and Monkeypaw Productions. Due is the author of several novels and two short story collections, Ghost Summer: Stories and The Wishing Pool and Other Stories. She is also coauthor of a civil rights memoir, Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights (with her late mother, Patricia Stephens Due). Learn more at 

Praise For…

"A riveting masterpiece that manages to be both heartwarming and chilling...literally impossible to stop reading."
— --Locus Magazine

"You're in for a treat The Reformatory is one of those books you can't put down. Tananarive Due hit it out of the park."
—Stephen King

"One of the best novels published in 2023. A superb mix of literary fiction, horror, and historical fiction."
— Gabino Iglesias,

"The Reformatory is a masterpiece -- a new American classic of the uncanny. I was gripped from the first lines to the catch-your-breath desperation of the final pages. Even in the tale's grimmest moments, Tananarive Due insists on the almost supernatural power of simple kindness. You have to read this book."
— —Joe Hill, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman

“Moby Dick might have flipped America on its back to show the rotting underbelly, but The Reformatory‘s looking just as closely at our bad history, and somehow finding the heart beating underneath it all. This is the novel I’ve been waiting for. It breaks your heart, but it also holds it together.”

Stephen Graham Jones, bestselling author of The Only Good Indians, and My Heart is a Chainsaw

An epic novel of horror and real history. Tananarive Due displays all her powers as a master of the form, there’s frights and chills and also so much love. I tore through this book. This novel is a straight up masterpiece, it should be read and remembered for a long time.”

Victor LaValle, bestselling author of The Changeling, and Lone Women

“Tananarive Due at her best. Hallucinatory, haunting, terrifying and moving, a tour de force of a novel.”

S. A. Cosby, bestselling author of All the Sinners BleedRazorblade Tears, and Blacktop

“The writing here is spectacular; the pacing, engrossing; the setting, heartbreaking but honest; and the characters are given a nuance and depth rarely seen… A masterpiece of fiction.” —Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

 “With fully realized characters and well-placed twists, Due ratchets up the tension until the final, extraordinary showdown.”

“A vividly realized page-turner, which is at once an ingenious ghost story, a white-knuckle adventure, and an illuminating if infuriating look back at a shameful period in American jurisprudence.”
–Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW


“Her fiction is always powerful, and The Reformatory promises to be her most moving — and horrifying — tale yet.” —Vulture


“One of the greatest living horror writers.... Sure to be as powerful as it is haunting.” —CrimeReads


“Due knocks it out of the park every damn time.” —Book Riot


Product Details
ISBN: 9781982188344
ISBN-10: 1982188340
Publisher: S&S/Saga Press
Publication Date: October 31st, 2023
Pages: 576
Language: English