Moger, Susan Of Better Blood 285 pages. Albert Whitman and Company, 2016. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: R (human sterilization); Violence: R (murder).
It is 1922, and Rowan Collier, 16, has lost the use of one of her legs to polio. Her disability is a shame to her wealthy, high-bred father, who has abandoned her to institutional care. While there, she is selected to act out a role in the “Unfit Family Show”, a scripted play illustrating the uselessness of the “unfit” and promoting societal acceptance of forced sterilization of the feeble, disabled, and mentally ill. Rowan makes a best friend, Dorchy, and they contrive a plan to run away together. But the organization Dorchy works for tracks them down, and ultimately they go to work as camp counselors on an island in which there are mysterious medical practices afoot. An influenza outbreak at the camp could mean real peril for both campers and counselors, but not for the reasons you may think.
I applaud this story for exposing the warped beliefs (now completely discredited by genetic science) of the eugenics movement that was gaining general support in the 20th century. The author gets carried away and takes things to an unbelievable level in the second half of the book, which I feel detracts greatly. The book toggles back and forth between present time and reminiscences, and there are some puzzling scenes and characters that don’t have enough depth or explanation. We get more description of the smell of the seaside than we do some of the characters.
HS – OPTIONAL Reviewer: JA, High School Librarian