“Girls With Sharp Sticks” by Suzanne Young

Thanks to Simon & Schuster UK Children’s and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This was quite an interesting read. If my review seems brief it’s because this is the kind of book that’s easy to spoil so I’m only going to summarise the plot in the most general of senses.

Philomena is a seventeen year old girl who attends an elite girls school. The aim of the school is to turn girls into ‘perfect’ women for the benefit of their future husbands. I’ve heard this book compared to The Handmaid’s Tale but it’s really not aside from having that dystopian slant. If anything, this book is a commentary on rape culture. The schoolgirls are held responsible for how men react to them and must make themselves objects of desire whilst not being permitted any of their own agency.

“But men don’t have to follow the same rules of engagement that we do. Perhaps if I’d acted properly, he would have done the same”

The main theme of this book seems very relevant to current discourse around the Me Too movement, Toxic Masculinity and rape culture in general. It also touches upon the complicity of other women in sustaining sexism and misogyny.

“The poem talked about men keeping us captive. But… what about the women who work with them? Where were the mothers in that poem?”

The writing can be a little heavy handed sometimes, there’s not always a whole lot of subtlety in the message but, the book’s heart is in the right place.

I thought the love story was superfluous and there were some slightly bizarre things like a super modern, futuristic school using faxes. FAXES. I also saw the twist coming from a zillion miles away but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel.

Apparently this book is going to be the first in a series but I personally thought it would have worked perfectly well as a standalone. There is lots of food for thought here for young men and women alike. The setting was something a little different and the core messages of the book, if delivered somewhat clumsily at certain points, are important themes to explore.

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