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The Degenerates

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  97 ratings  ·  59 reviews
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 marginalizedand institutionalized them for life.

The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 17th 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 4.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  97 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Sarah Perchikoff
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
THIS. BOOK. I knew going in that The Degenerates was going to hurt. Four girls stuck in a school in the early 1900s where theyre labeled based on the ways they dont fit societys standard of whats normal. My heart! I know enough about asylums during this time period to know things were not going to be any better in this situation.

(The book is compared to Girl, Interrupted, but I also saw bits of The Bell Jar in it too.)

But as bad as things get (and well get to that in a minute), the bond between
Lost in Book Land
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I feel like I have been flying through books lately. My Goodreads currently-reading shelf is full like always but this time many of them are set as like almost completed (that's the system I have for when they are done, I set them at just a few pages short of complete until I write the review). There may be a better system but I currently like mine. One of the books I finished recently that is still waiting for me to review is the Degenerates. This book does not come out for a bit but I was ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Ill post that review upon publication in March.

UPDATED on 3/22/20:

Four stars

When historical fiction is done well, it transports readers into the personal experiences of individuals who live in a time that seems present - rather than long ago - and into a set of circumstances that seems, by modern day standards, nearly unimaginable. That's exactly what happens in this work.

Mann's narrative
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed Mann's earlier work, What Every Girl Should Know, about the life of Margaret Sanger, so I was looking forward to getting my hands on The Degenerates. It didn't disappoint! The author has a gift for tackling difficult subjects and making them very personal and accessible.
Paige Green
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher! Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Degenerates

Author: J. Albert Mann

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Diversity: Slight LGBTQA+ relationship (makeout scene) and based on the covers one of the girls is black and the other might be Asian, but it wasnt well described in the book.

Publication Date: March 17, 2020

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Recommended Age: 16+ (TW torture, violence, gore, some language, and

Pages: March 17, 2020

Amazon Link

Amy Layton
This was fantastic, spit-fire, tough and tumble, rough and rumble.  When four teenagers meet at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, they find commonalities in the fact that they don't so much need taking care of or help, but that they simply do not fit in.  Their families don't visit them, they try to run away, they slog through repetitive classes and lessons designed by teachers who couldn't care less.  But once they realize that they're in it together, they begin to make plans to ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A horrifying and heartbreaking exploration of what life was like for the girls locked up in institutions in the twentieth century in an unforgettable story of friendship, found-family, and survival against all odds.

Four girls' lives intertwine at an institution for the "feebleminded," where each of them has been received a life sentence with no hope of escape. Sisters Maxine and Rose--sent away because of Maxine's sexuality and Rose's Down Syndrome--their friend Alice, and new girl London
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, books-of-2020
This book could make a case for blindly picking completely random titles on Netgalley. Because that's what I did and man am I impressed with this book.

Some of the language seems a tad out of place - "sucks" sounds more modern, for example - and a few metaphors are a little clunky. Other than that, the writing is quite lovely. Simple, yet evocative. The topics tackled lends themselves to strong emotional reactions, but Mann deftly plays with those emotions and makes the story visceral. And the
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
J. Albert Manns talent is making history come alive in such a personal way that you feel you are the main character living in this time in history. This time Mann lets the reader live through four young women living in a Massachusetts mental institution in the early 1900s.

London is locked up for being morally feeble-minded aka pregnant out of wedlock, Maxine is a moron, Alice is a moron and has a clubfoot, and Rose has Downs Syndrome. Mann uses all four points of view to tell the story so the
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Degenerates was a very heartbreaking and disturbing historical fiction. It was disturbing mainly because of what the young girls were subjected to by doctors and staff at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded. This story was based on facts and intensive research. Years ago, children were placed in these institutions for life, simply because they were classified as imbeciles, morons, idiots, undesirables, or degenerates. The story centered on the lives of four teenage girls. Each had ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Firstly, I just want to say thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for sending me an e-arc of this book as part of the blog tour. I really appreciate this opportunity. 

The Degenerates was a good read, I can't say I enjoyed it as it just doesn't seem right. At times I found it heart-breaking and very difficult to comprehend. Therefore "enjoyment" doesn't quite describe exactly how I felt about this book. But that is not a bad thing. It just means that the story line hit me in the right
Rep: queer black disabled main character (Alice), character with Down's Syndrome (Rose), queer character (Maxine), non-white minority (for that time) character (London)
Warnings: ableism and patient abuse, police brutality, depiction of self-harm and mentions of suicidal ideation, miscarriage and infant death, homophobia

When I started this book, I did not know how much I would come to love these characters and their stories. About four girls institutionalized and considered feeble-minded by the
Leelynn (Sometimes Leelynn Reads) ❤
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Fantastic Flying Book Club, Netgalley, and Atheneum Books for Young Readers for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.

No, these girls arent bad in the traditional sense. They just dont belong in this school and the reasons why they were put there are utter crap. So this book really worked up
The Degenerates follows the lives of five young girls who are institutionalized because they are believed to be morons and imbeciles. Once girls enter this institution they never leave. There, they are treated poorly and punished harshly. Their situations are heartbreaking. This will not be an easy read.

Wow.. in this well done work of fiction Mann introduces us to five characters who are considered incapable of living a normal life. We follow a very brief period of their lives and experience a
Ms. Yingling
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Too Young Adult for my students. A lot of very unpleasant topics. Similar to What Every Girl Should Know-- I liked the basic idea of the story line, but there was too much detail for my students.
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
J. Albert Mann has created a beautiful testament to friendship and courage in the latest of her historic fictions. The characters are brilliantly varied and emotionally poignant. And their search for love and freedom is a tale that was aching to be told.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Got an arc of The Degenerates and cannot recommend it more! A celebration of those who dare to be different. Empowering YA!
Alice Carpenter
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to get a copy of the ARC to read before publication. Wow! You can count on J. Albert Mann to take on tough subjects and handle them with thought and care. Amazing writer!
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You can find this review and others on my blog SleepySamReads!

Special thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book took my breath away. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking. I honestly loved all four of the main characters so much, which is unusual. When theres so many POVs one or two are bound to be unfavorable, but I honestly loved reading all of theirs.

Alice is a young black girl who was abandoned at The Massachusetts School for the
Stephanie Ward
Mar 15, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

'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
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight


Girls. Inmates. Idiots. Imbeciles. Morons. Undesirable. Feebleminded. All interchangeable. All degenerates.

This book will absolutely break your heart, but it will also give you hope and inspiration at the strength of human spirit. Back in the day (this is set in the 1920s), anyone who was different (in really any way, but in this book, we are dealing mostly with developmental
Belle Ellrich
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it

I will say, I was fairly impressed with the way the author was able to hook readers into this book. I was expecting something far different than what we were given, but Mann seemed to have her own agenda and message.

This book is a heavy one. For sensitive readers, I wouldn't suggest picking this one up. I honestly wish there could've been a warning, even in the slightest, included in the final copy of
Zoe L.
Mar 12, 2020 added it
This book is one of those devastatingly beautiful difficult books to read. I mean its covering a time where women were just locked away if they served no purpose. Out of sight out of mind, it was easier to tell them that they were feeble minded and would never amount to something. You know, the frustratingly not too long ago time where women were deemed lesser than.

This book, just wow. Not only is it taking a look at such an amazingly important sliver of our history, but the cast is utterly
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it
People who attend the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded knows it is a place where no one wants to be. The young women who live there certainly don't want to be there. Maxine has to protect her younger sister Rose from mean attendants and older girls who like to bully the weak. Alice has to fend for herself after her brother couldn't support her because of her club foot. London was dragged to the school after one unexpected moment in her life. Each of the four girls is determined to ...more
John Clark
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gritty and a slap in the face look at what hundreds, possibly thousands of girls experienced in the early 20th century. You're pulled along by four very likable girls who find themselves in an institution for simply being different, Alice is there because of her club foot and her brother's unwillingness to care for her any more. London's there because she lost both parents and made the mistake of kicking the butcher's son who got her pregnant in the family jewels. Maxine and Rose are sisters. ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was devastating. Exploring the history of eugenics, discrimination, and the treatment of the mentally ill in the 1920s, we meet four young ladies who would be absolutely thriving and successful in today's world but at the time were considered moral degenerates. We explore the lives of Alice and Maxine, two lesbians at a time when that was considered a mental illness (which, btw, it was until 1973); Rose, Maxine's sister with Down syndrome; and London, an unmarried pregnant teenager. ...more
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Massachusetts School is for moron and imbecile. Once you enter the school there is no escape as there is no cure for feeble minded people.

Maxine who despite knowing the reality dreams of having a beach house, being a singer and an escape from this institution along with Rose. Rose whom everyone thinks knows nothing, but she knows more than she lets on. Alice who is accustomed to institution routine and lifestyle says nothing and shows no emotion because showing emotions means letting your
Katelyn Beane
Mar 06, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a heavy read. It is not a light and fluffy book. It talks about serious things ranging from racism to homophobia to miscarriages. The setting of this book is at the height of the eugenics movement. A dark period in our history. A time when anyone considered different or undesirable were sent to institutions to live out there life. There are great moments in this book, but I do think it should be cautioned in regards to young readers. The darkness of these characters lives are not shied ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, lgbtqia-rep, diverse
My heart hurt reading this. Dark, devastating and raw, The Degenerates will open your eyes about the suffering off those who did not fit the societal norms of their time: the neuro-diverse, queer, disabled and non-white innocent young girls whose stories are nowadays rarely told. It's also a beautiful story of friendship and unconditional love that survive even in the hardest times and darkest places.

*Thank you to Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Simon & Schuster for providing an ARC of
Anna Goldberg
DNF for now because this is not a great book to read during a pandemic. Im also not really sure who this book is written forif you know anything about the atrocious history of mental healthcare in the US, this is kinda gratuitous, and if you dont know anything about it, this contains a whole lot of period accurate language that does nobody any good to hear. I dont know if Ill pick it back up because Im not sure theres much of a story here beyond demonstrating how awful the history of ...more
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J. Albert Mann is the author of the Sunny Sweet series, a humorous and quirky set of middle grade stories published by Bloomsbury Childrens USA, as well as "SCAR," a historical fiction novel set during the Revolutionary War published by Boyds Mills Press/Calkins Creek. Jennifers short stories have been published by Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights for Children Fiction Contest. ...more

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