One of the things I love most about fantasy and science fiction, is the way authors use an imagined world to examine problems in our own world. Suzanne Young has just done that x1000 with her newest dystopian YA sci fi thriller, Girls with Sharp Sticks.
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.
All the problems women have been facing for decades (centuries) are thrown into sharp relief through the lens of Girls with Sharp Sticks. With vibes along the lines of “The Stepford Wives,” only more sinister, Girls with Sharp Sticks is doubly chilling — both for the creepy mood & subtle underlying threat Suzanne imbues each scene with, and for the startling realizations that the extremities explored in this book are far too real for so many women today.
A group of men paying to have young women trained to please them in all ways (through their appearance, behavior, mannerisms, etc.) … it’s creepy AF, and yet as a woman, you KNOW that there are men out there who would read this book and think, “Hell yeah. Sign me up!”
I think, perhaps, that might have been the most frightening aspect of reading this book — knowing that there are actual human beings out there who would read this, and think it’s a good idea. (While to the rest of us sane people, it’s one of the most horrifying ideas I’ve ever encountered.)
Suzanne is always good with twisted plotlines like this, as her Program series will demonstrate. Her anger at the world around us is palpable on every page of Girls with Sharp Sticks, and I hope that this book (and others like it) will continue to be a rallying cry for fighting back against misogyny and the patriarchy and all the small but significant ways society tries to keep women “in their place.”
Girls with Sharp Sticks is the book we need right now. Thrilling, captivating, horrifying and sickly twisted, it’s also filled with girls who come to learn what they’re truly capable of and aren’t afraid to fight back. I can’t wait to see where this series goes next. Girls with Sharp Sticks is in stores March 19th.