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)