Jonathan Grisby is the newest arrival at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys — an ancient, crumbling fortress of gray stone rising up from the ocean. It is dark, damp, and dismal. And it is just the place Jonathan figures he deserves.
Because Jonathan has done something terrible. And he’s willing to accept whatever punishment he has coming.
Just as he’s getting used to his new situation, however, a freak accident leaves the troubled boys of Slabhenge without any adult supervision. Suddenly the kids are free, with an entire island to themselves. But freedom brings unexpected danger. And if Jonathan can’t come to terms with the sins of his past and lead his new friends to safety . . . then every boy on the island is doomed.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Bullying; Concealing dead bodies
Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 4-6. Holes meets Lord of the Flies in this fast-paced novel set in a reform school on a creepy island. Jonathan Grisby has been sentenced to 10 weeks at Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys. Jonathan, haunted by the tragic circumstances that condemned him to the school, is prepared to serve his time. When a freak accident eliminates (deservedly) the entire staff of adults, the boys turn their prison into a playhouse, though it soon becomes evident that one sort of authoritarian rule has been exchanged for another. The book incorporates the atmospheric hallmarks of an island-bound suspense tale: a crumbling fortress, dank passages, giant rats, and a dark and stormy night. Jonathan is a brave young man capable of leading the boys through this extraordinary situation—if only he was not so incapacitated by his grief and guilt. Told with pathos and compassion, this rises above the label of survival story and examines the way truth and redemption are interconnected in one troubled boy’s life.
Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Lord of the Flies set on Alcatraz, with the Gothic sensibility of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Twelve-year-old Jonathan Grisby has been sentenced to 10 weeks at Slabhenge Reformatory for Troubled Boys, an enormous, decaying fortresslike island prison off an unknown coast, formerly an insane asylum, for a crime that has him staggering under his own guilt. At Slabhenge, rats run wild, a monster lurks behind a locked door, and 15 boys ages 10 through 14 cower in damp cells under the sadistic control of the head. That is, until Jonathan’s first morning there, when a bolt of lightning kills every grown-up in the place without harming a single boy. At the urging of Sebastian, an older boy with dark urges toward control, and Jonathan, who cannot bear the thought of returning home, the multiracial inmates decide to stay awhile and enjoy a bit of freedom. They stick the dead bodies in the walk-in freezer, feast on the stores of food long denied them, and gradually fall under Sebastian’s despotic rule. Before Sebastian can gain complete control or anything truly ugly can happen, a wild storm starts to break Scar Island apart. In finding the courage to rescue his companions, Jonathan finds the strength to face his past. It’s grotesque, compelling, over-the-top, yet fully realized, and nothing like Gemeinhart’s previous work. Children who respond to it well will read it over and over again. (Fiction. 8-12)
About the Author
Hi! I live in a small town smack dab in the middle of Washington state with my wife and three young daughters. I was lucky and grateful to be a teacher-librarian in an elementary school for 13 years, where I got to share awesome books with awesome kids. I love camping, cooking and traveling. I also play guitar (badly) and read (constantly). My house is always a mess. I am really pretty darn happy.
I’ve written three middle grade novels: Scar Island, The Honest Truth, and Some Kind of Courage.
Dan’s website is www.dangemeinhart.com.
Around the Web
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Scar Island Publisher Page