Monday, March 25, 2019

BOOK REVIEW | Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Title: Girls with Sharp Sticks
Author: Suzanne Young
Series? Yes, the first in a duology
Pages: 400
Publication Date: March 19, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: I received an e-arc of Girls with Sharp Sticks in exchange for an honest review via Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

Girls with Sharp Sticks is Suzanne Young's latest novel, and after reading this, I seriously need to read more of Young's other novels, like The Program or A Need so Beautiful. For some reason, I was really hesitant to download this from Netgalley, but I am so glad I did. Girls with Sharp Sticks is a young adult novel that interrogates men's supposed inherent power and superiority over women. Set in a boarding school that's more sinister than it seems, Mena and her other peers uncover the truth about the school, the people in it, and themselves. 

I'm just going to say it from the get-go: Girls with Sharp Sticks is one of my favorite novels of this year. It's just so well done. I'm a huge fan of novels set in boarding school, so already I was interested in Mena's setting. What really made this book above and beyond is the novel's feminism. It is such a strong through line throughout the novel, and I found it's message really important and empowering. 

A huge aspect of Girls with Sharp Sticks is female friendship and solidarity. Philomena is best friends with the other girls in her class, and there is no petty jealousy. When Mena strikes up a romance with local(ish) boy Jackson, it doesn't cause any unneeded drama. Instead, the girls are supportive of Mena and protect her. Within these friendships is also a female/female romance, which I loved. It's pretty unrealistic for every single character to be straight, so having that diversity, even when it wasn't the focus, was much appreciated.

I also loved in Girls with Sharp Sticks was the focus on essays and poetry. These past couple years, I have recently become more empowered and knowledgeable about sexism due to women's essays, poetry, and writing. I loved that Suzanne Young acknowledged the power of words, and how transformational women's writing can be. 

Girls With Sharp Sticks never slows down, and this is in part due to the plot twists that happen throughout the book. As a narrator, Philomena has no clue what's going on behind the scenes, so readers learn as she does. This leads to some fantastic reveals about the true nature of the boarding school, the girls' histories, and their futures. I've read some reviews where people saw the twists coming, but I didn't. The foreshadowing is definitely there, but I didn't think the book would go there. Go there it went!

Girls With Sharp Sticks ultimately serves as an allegory for our modern day predicament. Women are constantly told what we're supposed to do, look like, act like, etc. It's empowering to read about young women fighting against this oppressive system that essentially treats women like robots. Suzanne Young does not shy away from women's anger, she thrives in it. Our anger is justified, and we must not be ashamed of it.

Girls with Sharp Sticks is a smart, wildly entertaining novel that serves as a reminder to women that we have a voice, strength, and power. I highly recommend it, and it will no doubt be one of my favorites of this year.

With that, I give Girls with Sharp Sticks 
5 out of 5 Flowers (but were you really surprised?)


  1. I'm reading this now and loving it!

  2. Great review! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. By the way, The Program is fantastic.

    1. That's great to know! I haven't seen many recent reviews of it.

  3. I've been seeing this one mentioned a lot lately, I might have to pick it up. Great review!

    1. You definitely should! Thanks for stopping by Leah!