Nineteen year-old Emily’s acute dissociative disorder causes her to be institutionalised – again – at Greyfriars Reformatory For Girls. Caught in the crossfire between brutal Principal Quick and cruel bully Saffron Chassay, Emily befriends fellow outcast Victoria. When the terrifying apparition of the mysterious ‘Grey Girl’ begins scaring the inmates to death, Emily’s disorder may be the one thing that can save her.
Hi and welcome to my review of Greyfriars Reformatory! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite and to Flame Tree Press for the gorgeous proof copy!
I was planning to decline any and all blog tours in October because of #Orentober, yet Greyfriars Reformatory was impossible to walk away from. The word “reformatory” alone is enough to pique my interests, the blurb tickled me even more and that cover, reminiscent of films like The Ring, sealed the deal.
I regret nothing: Greyfriars Reformatory delivered all I’d hoped for, and one hell of a lot more. It’s one of those stories that proves that horror is such a wrongfully underrated genre.
Emily Drake finds herself on a bus transporting her and a few other girls to a reformatory. She knows she has a dissociative disorder, and her memories are flaky at best. Pondering her situation and herself, she wonders if she might be called an unreliable narrator, which immediately made me settle in to enjoy the ride, ‘cause this little reader loves herself an unreliable narrator!
Upon arrival at the Greyfriars Reformatory For Girls, it becomes apparent that Emily’s been there before, though she doesn’t have any recollection of a previous stay. Seeing things through her eyes, it’s unsettling. In fact, that’s the word I would use to describe this whole novel: unsettling. Nightmares flow into real-life events and vice versa, casting a nightmarish hue over the entire story, making me unsure about what was real and what was not.
The reformatory makes for an absolutely marvellous setting, as I’m sure you can imagine. Gothic, dreary, gloomy, grey, it’s the perfect backdrop for what is essentially a ghost story. After all, there is a girl, an unknown grey girl with dark hair obscuring her face, lurking from the shadows, there one minute, gone the next. The writing is evocative throughout, and I could see the events play out before my mind’s eye without even trying. As a matter of fact, I actively tried not to picture the few scenes that were on the gory side, and failed.
However, the ghost story is just one layer of this tale, there’s lots more to uncover. Equally fascinating is the interaction between the girls, and the interaction between the girls – especially Emily – and their principal Mrs Quick, who, incidentally, is the only member of staff present, and WTH is up with that?! It’s mysterious, it’s unsettling and it makes for such an intriguing read that I read the whole thing in an afternoon.
When all is revealed in the end, I was floored. The bigger picture was so much bigger than I ever expected it to be, and so much more painful, it hit me right in the feels. The conclusion is what made this a five-star read for me, that little extra that makes a great story unforgettable. The story took such an unexpected and clever turn, while still making every little piece of the puzzle slot into place, and I was reeling. I wish I could be less evasive, I wish I could stop beating about the bush, but that would be a huge spoiler, so I’m afraid that if you want to know more, you’ll just have to read it yourself.
Ghost story, psychological thriller, horror novel, Greyfriars Reformatory is the perfect addition to your #spooktober shelves!