Respectful, unflinching, and eye-opening.

THE DEGENERATES

Mann (What Every Girl Should Know, 2019, etc.) tackles the eugenics movement of the 1920s.

Students of the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded—disabled, gay, Indigenous, and other marginalized people—never graduate. Categorized as idiots, imbeciles, and morons, these “degenerates” are subject to strict routines, cruel punishments, and menial labor. But street-wise, cynical orphan London—unmarried and pregnant—is sure she can escape. However, when she reluctantly befriends Maxine; Maxine’s younger sister, Rose, who has Down syndrome; and Alice, who has a club foot, she realizes that more lives than hers are at stake. Each teen’s perspective unfolds in alternating third-person chapters. Maxine’s forbidden mutual attraction to Alice mingles with hope, homesickness, and shame. Alice, who is singled out for harsher punishment for being black and lesbian as well as disabled, doesn’t dare express love. Though Rose’s portrayal skirts the “cuddly disabled child” trope, she’s refreshingly savvy. A heavy plot contrivance notwithstanding, the author portrays the movement’s prejudice, racism, and violence with brutal realism; an author’s note explains that the doctors’ dehumanizing dialogue comes verbatim from real medical notes. Crucially, she reminds readers that such prejudice still exists. She also explains all named characters’ diagnoses, which range from hydrocephalus to autism, and considers her own spinal disability and white privilege. Maxine, Rose, and most secondary characters appear to be white. London, who has southern Italian origins, has a dark complexion.

Respectful, unflinching, and eye-opening. (historical note, author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1935-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Summery fun and games with feeling.

THE SUMMER OF BROKEN RULES

A summer trip helps break 18-year-old Meredith Fox out of a haze of mourning.

Her cousin’s wedding means a return to Martha’s Vineyard, a well-loved destination but one filled with bittersweet memories. It’s been a year and a half since the sudden loss of Meredith’s sister, Claire, and the grief remains strong. Meredith, though, resolves to take this time to celebrate family and bridge the rifts resulting from ghosting friends. She didn’t plan on a meet-cute/embarrassing encounter with the groom’s stepbrother, Wit. Nor did she expect a wedding-week game of Assassin, a water-gun–fueled family tradition. What starts off as a pact of sharing strategic information with Wit grows into something more as the flirting and feelings develop. Only one person can win, though, and any alliance has an expiration date. To win and honor Claire, who was a master of the game, Meredith must keep her eye on the prize. Taking place over the course of a week, the narrative is tight with well-paced reveals that disrupt predictability and keep the plot moving. Early details are picked back up, and many elements come satisfyingly full circle. The short time frame also heightens the tension of this summer romance: What will happen when they leave the bubble of the Vineyard? The mix of budding romance, competitive hijinks, a close-knit circle, as well as dealing with loss make for a satisfying read. The main cast is White.

Summery fun and games with feeling. (family tree) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72821-029-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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