Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Song Pairing: “Fortress” by Lennon Stella Listen Here / 2019 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS PLAYLIST (Spotify) – Listen Here / 2019 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist (Apple)

Here’s a brief synopsis of the plot. Philomena Rhodes is a flawlessly beautiful young woman attending Innovations Academy, an all-girls prep school located in a renovated warehouse outside the city. The girls at Innovations Academy spend their days learning how to be polite, prudent, obedient, and amenable to the men who run the school.

Girls who are defiant or curious are subjected to impulse control therapy. The girls must be very wary of impulse control therapy–though they don’t remember anything about it after it’s done, it’s a threat nonetheless. And boy is it heavily used; I searched “therapy” on my Kindle and counted 102 mentions. That’s a lot of impulse controlling.

Just like every other main character in an overextended YA novel, Mena is special. She has no defining characteristics that make her so, aside from her admirable love for her fellow classmates. Her peers are equally without spark–I could hardly tell Lennon Rose from Marcella from Mary Ann (was there a Mary Ann?), but perhaps that’s the point.

Anyway, Mena meet-cutes with a boy in a gas station on a field trip to a rose garden that’s used as a heavy handed metaphor. He’s cute, she’s dazzled by his averageness, maybe he’ll rescue her later. She begins to wonder why Innovations Academy never lets the girls meet any boys–only the weird older male investors who come to check up on the school from time to time.

Then Mena stumbles across a book of poetry about a bunch of repressed young women who fight back against the men who hold them hostage. Her feminist rage is igniting, she’s finally observing the strangeness going on around her. She’s like a college freshman in her first philosophy course–she begins to wonder, what if the colors I’m seeing are different from the colors YOU’RE seeing? What even IS red, man?

SPOILERS:

This is just Stepford Wives. Do you know anything about Stepford Wives? Then you know everything you need to know about this book, but for teens.

I lost steam with this one about 100 pages in. I finished it, by the grace of God herself and a whole lot of moxie. Needless to say, I found it predictable and derivative. I don’t hold that against Suzanne Young’s writing, because she’s a fluid storyteller who will ring true for a lot of young readers who want an awakening. I’m just not the target audience for this one.

Borrow it from your local library and hang tight with the ending–there’ll be a second one, because everything is a series.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment

  1. Loved this review! Question: Do you believe this is a good book to ignite a feminist rage in younger readers / generations? Or do you think there are other ones that do it better?

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