Title: The Degenerates
Author: J. Albert Mann
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Published: March 17, 2020
Published by: Atheneum Books
“Rose knew a lot of things people thought she didn’t.”
J. Albert Mann weaves a heart-wrenching tale of four girls struggling to survive inside an asylum in the early 20th century. Labeled as “imbeciles”, “morons” and “idiots” the girls in the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded are sheltered away from living life in society. It brings together the stories of four girls, London a scrappy 14-year-old who is brought to the asylum and labeled a “high-grade moron” for being pregnant meets Maxine, Rose, and Alice.
Maxine and Rose are sisters sent to live at the school after an incident. Rose, labeled a “mongoloid” (a derogatory term for Down Syndrome) and Maxine and Alice labeled as “morons” know that there is no getting out of the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, but London, newly arrived is determined to just that. Caught and brought back the girls develop a bond with London, especially Rose.
This book brought me to tears in some areas and have me laughing at London’s antics in others. I fell in love with Rose, London, Maxine and Alice. Well written and telling a poignant story of what it was like on the inside of an asylum. Touching on sensitive topics such as race, disabilities, and LGBTQIA+. Written from the point of view of each of the girls it tells a touching story of the four girls’ friendship and survival against all the odds. Well written and eye-opening, I enjoyed the book immensely right to the very end.