March 16, 2020

The Degenerates Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway

The Degenerates
Author: J. Albert Mann 
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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In the tradition of Girl, Interrupted, this fiery historical novel follows four young women in the early 20th century whose lives intersect when they are locked up by a world that took the poor, the disabled, the marginalized—and institutionalized them for life.

The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.
The Degenerates is a new young adult historical fiction novel that follows four girls - Maxine, Rose, Alice, and London - and their time at The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded. I've always found this subject to be both fascinating and repulsive - that women and girls could be locked up in places like this if they didn't act a certain way, if they were an embarrassment to their families, were a burden to their families, or got pregnant (to name a few). It's so messed up that this was allowed to happen in the first place, but the accounts of what went on inside these places as well as the living conditions themselves were despicable. I think the author did a fantastic job bringing this "school" to life and showing what it would've been like to live there. It was sad, heartbreaking, maddening, and horrible. But underneath it all, the girls have hope, determination, and strength they didn't even know they had.

I liked getting to know each of the girls - their personalities, back stories, hopes and dreams, fears, and everything else. They all felt realistic and I found it easy to empathize with each of them. One thing that didn't really work for me was the author's choice of writing style. I prefer the first person point of view, but the book is done in the third person. I understand the reasoning behind this - having multiple main characters and narrators could get confusing if done in another way. However, I just couldn't get the deep connection with any of the characters that I love. Without this connection, I also find it difficult to lose myself in the story and the world the author has created. If I can't really connect with the main character, then I'm almost never able to fully immerse myself in the story and get lost inside of it. Sadly, that's what happened with this book. If it had been written in the first person, I'm sure I would've had a completely different experience and probably would've liked it a lot more. Please remember that these are just my own personal thoughts and opinions and they aren't meant to reflect negatively on the book or author at all. Lots of readers won't have the same issues as I did and will probably end up really loving the book. Overall, it was a fascinating look at a time in our history when these horrible things actually happened, but it's also a great story about four girls who are determined to make their own fate and not have it made for them. Definitely recommended for fans of YA fiction and historical fiction.
J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee. 

Jennifer is represented by Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency.
Win (1) copy of THE DEGENERATES by J. Albert Mann (US Only)
Starts: March 11, 2020
Ends: March 25, 2020

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