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Girls with Sharp Sticks #1

Girls with Sharp Sticks

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“Enough plot twists to give a reader whiplash.” —Cosmopolitan

From New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young comes the start of a thrilling, subversive new series about a girls-only boarding school with a terrifying secret and the friends who will stop at nothing to protect each other.

Some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardian, they receive a well-rounded education that promises to make them better. Obedient girls, free from arrogance or defiance. Free from troublesome opinions or individual interests.

But the girls’ carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears. As Mena and her friends uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations Academy will learn to fight back.

Bringing the trademark plot twists and high-octane drama that made The Program a bestselling and award-winning series, Suzanne Young launches a new series that confronts some of today’s most pressing ethical questions.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published March 19, 2019

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About the author

Suzanne Young

37 books4,682 followers
Suzanne Young is the New York Times bestselling author of The Program, The Treatment, and several other novels. She currently lives in Tempe, Arizona where she teaches high school English and obsesses about books. Learn more about Suzanne at www.suzanne-young.blogspot.com

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5 stars
3,531 (31%)
4 stars
4,470 (40%)
3 stars
2,418 (21%)
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559 (5%)
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167 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,016 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,201 reviews40.7k followers
July 7, 2020
5 disturbing, breathtaking, irritating stars!
This book is definitely a combination of Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives and Michael Crichton’s Westworld. It’s an inspirational example of dystopian thriller! I held my breath, bite my nails, cursed the characters but I couldn’t put it down as if my eyes and hands were glued to the book. It was so exciting, exhausting and definitely nerve-recking experience but interestingly I enjoyed it so much!
Especially the last twist was memorable! You may foresee, expect or not, it was good one!

Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.5k followers
June 29, 2019
‘the handmaids tale’ meets ‘replica’ in this feminist sci-fi tale that the YA genre needs.

i adore suzanne young. i think her ‘the program’ series is one of the most creative and relevant stories, so i knew the idea/concept of this new series wouldnt disappoint. without wanting to give away anything important, its refreshing to see so many aspects of a social issue described and personified. i appreciated how this explored womens rights, combating misogyny, and the ethics (or lack, thereof) of gender stereotypes in very intriguing and original way.

that being said, i feel like the pacing of this book does a disservice to the story itself. the slowness makes what could have been a very exciting story feel boring. however, everything explodes into action at the end, so i have a feeling the sequel will be better in terms of being more fast-paced. i have my fingers crossed!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,597 followers
September 4, 2020

Many thanks to Lauren at Simon & Schuster Children's Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
Girls with kind RAZOR hearts.
Open your eyes, my father said.
That day I was born.
You will be sweet, he promised THREATENED.
You will be beautiful
You will obey FIGHT BACK.
And then he I told me MYSELF
Above all
You will have a kind RAZOR heart.
For that, they will love FEAR you.
They will protect REVERE you
They will keep RUN FROM you.
Because you belong to them NO ONE.
So be a girl to make them proud AFRAID.

This book is The Handmaid’s Tale in an evil version of Hogwarts. I expected so much from this book and it delivered even more!

So, what’s this book about?
Girls With Sharp Sticks is set in a dystopian world where a group of girls goes to a prestigious boarding school, Innovations Academy, where they are taught to be quiet and respectful. Philomena, the main character, starts to have an awakening of sorts. She starts to realize that she doesn’t like being forced into silence and obeying everything a man tells her. She starts to question everything she’s ever known and begins to investigate the shady sh*t that’s going down at the academy.

Philomena - Philomena, or Mena for short, is the main character. She is very calm, cool and collected. Or so it seems. The more that Mena started to question the staff at Innovations Academy, the more I liked her and found myself rooting for her. Her character arc reminded me of my own development. At first, when I was a smol little child, I was very shy and obedient. Now, I’m still shy but I swear. Wait, is that an improvement? I don’t know. My point is I loved seeing Mena bloom into a strong and determined young woman who was willing to do whatever it took to find the truth.

Another thing Girls With Sharp Sticks talks about a lot is the bond between the girls. Each girl cares for the others. Now, I love the theme of friendship but I wish it had been delved into more thoroughly. We never get a backstory or explanation on how or why these girls are friends, which made things feel a bit unnatural. That said, I did enjoy seeing the sisterly love that is often shared between good friends. And like a hive of bees, when one was threatened, all of them were. For example, when one of the professors would yell at a girl, the other girls were quick to defend.

On the note of the professors, I was surprised by the fact that an all female school was run by only men. I know that’s the point of the book but sheesh… it made me uncomfortable. Staff aside, the school itself was just f**ked up. The stuff they were teaching the girls alone was crazy. I mean there was so much wrong with Innovations Academy. The staff, the rooms, the schedule, and the restrictions and rules. I suppose it can be explained by the fact that this is a dystopia but there is something that has always bothered me with dystopias. How do they happen? Like, how does our world get to such an awful place? I can understand nuclear disasters, aliens and the like. But worlds like this one where girls are treated this way. Wouldn’t someone have the courage to speak up? But I digress.

One thing I noticed was on Goodreads this book is marked as Contemporary and Dystopia. What? That doesn’t make sense. Or so I thought. It’s weird but this both feels like a contemporary romance and like a science fiction dystopia. And also a mystery. Even though I did see the “twist” coming, I still enjoyed the clues, twists, and turns.

Finally, my favorite part of this book was defiance and uprising. As the girls begin to push back against their captors, I could feel the defiance and power bubbling in my stomach. There is something so inspiring seeing people fight against evil and wrongdoing.

Overall, if you like to read books that will make you gasp, cry while empowering and encouraging you at the same time, Girls With Sharp Sticks is for you.

Bottom Line:
5 Stars
Age Rating [ PG-13 ]
TW: Sexual Assault, Body Horror
Cover: 5/5 ~ Characters: 5/5 ~ Plot: 5/5 ~ Audio: ⅘
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Publication Date: March 19th, 2019
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Standalone: No
Series: Girls With Sharp Sticks #1
Best Format: Hardcover/Paperback

Girls with Sharp Sticks (#1) - ★★★★★
Girls with Razor Hearts (#2) - ★★★★☆

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Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,659 reviews5,139 followers
March 21, 2019
Life at Innovations Academy seems great to Mena and the other girls: the men might be controlling and expect very high standards from each of the young women, but that's normal, isn't it? And if one of the girls were to step out of line, a punishment would be expected, because that's just how life is for 'exemplary' girls like Mena.

Boarding school setting, men being trash, and girls loving and supporting other girls: if you didn't already guess, I was super here for this one as soon as I heard about it. Then, once I heard that it was being reckoned to the infamous The Handmaid's Tale, I knew there was just no way I could miss out on this book.
"Only beautiful things have value."

First of all, this book is terrifying. It takes place in a very near future—near enough that it feels like modern times—and has a slight dystopian element, but it's done so well that I felt like it completely subverted everything most YA readers have come to expect from the subgenre. Girls with Sharp Sticks felt like such a supremely original and unique storyline that I think it's going to be a tremendous breath of fresh air for a lot of readers.

"You'll find that out there ... people won't appreciate your opinions. Hold your tongue and listen. It's a good lesson for all young women."

The thing is, the awful part about this story is how plausible it feels, and how close it strikes to home in ways. The men in this book are horrible, disgusting, perverse, cruel, wicked monsters, and you should know ahead of time that you will spend so much of this book absolutely enraged by the men and by the circumstances they have created—but it's a good rage. A righteous rage, if you will.

We needed each other—still do. No one else could ever understand what we've been through. Together, we're strong. Flowers sharing roots in a caged garden.

On the other hand, when you aren't spitting acid over how awful the villains here are, you'll probably be spending the rest of your time doing what I did: falling irrevocably in love with these girls and their friendships with each other. They are all so wonderfully supportive and kind to one another, and they care so much. Mena is such a refreshing heroine because, despite her tenacity and ridiculous amounts of internal strength, she's also such a caring, worrisome, sweet soul and all she really wants in life is for herself and her loved ones to be free and safe.

I am at the mercy of these men. Of these horrible, terrible, abusive men.

Beyond what I've already said, there isn't much else I can say, because every time you think you've got Girls with Sharp Sticks figured out, there's another twist thrown in to complicate things further, and these twists were SO GOOD. I literally gasped out loud at one of them because I really never saw it coming, and that ending had me reeling! I am so glad this is the beginning of a series, because I definitely need more time with these characters and I can't wait to see what curveball Suzanne Young throws us next.

Content warnings for misogyny, rape culture, victim-shaming, assault (of every variety), murder, grieving, PTSD, ableism, body-shaming, talk of infertility, body horror

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Simon Pulse for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Holly  B (Short break!).
814 reviews1,870 followers
March 18, 2019
A new Dystopian, Sci-fi thriller series from Suzanne Young

I'm a sucker for any setting featuring a private boarding school or academy. This story is set in an elite all-girls school called, " Innovations Academy" .  There is much more going on than meets the eye. Report cards measure beauty, compliance, poise, decorum and an attitude of obedience. You get the picture.

Every student is beautiful and has a "sponsor", the professors are creepy and the head of staff is called " the guardian " and is downright sinister.

Philomena becomes aware that some of her friends behavior is "off" and she fears that someone is playing games with their lives. She stops taking her nightly brightly colored vitamins and suddenly becomes "aware" of things going on behind the doors of Innovations Academy.

I found it suspenseful, with a few shocking (somewhat predictable) events and I was cheering for Mena and the girls all the way! Definitely in for Book 2 in this YA series.

Thanks to Simon Pulse/ NG for my review copy. Book releases on March 19, 2019.

Profile Image for Pine tree leaf stick.
183 reviews301 followers
January 11, 2021
Oh. My. God.
This book was a terrifying roller coaster. I hate roller coasters. I don’t hate metaphorical roller coasters.


I finished this in under 24 hours. A lot under 24 hours. I read this in 20 hours and 9 of those hours were sleeping. I’ve never done that.

This book was so entertaining I love it but I can’t buy the next one until July 23 but that’s fine because no crazy cliffhanger.

And what genre is this supposed to be.
Profile Image for preoccupiedbybooks.
458 reviews1,027 followers
August 7, 2019
4.5 ⭐️
A thrilling, horrifying and unique feminist sci-fi/dystopian/mystery book!

"Some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns."

Mena and her friends are pupils at Innovations Academy, a boarding school for girls, but something is not quite right there...The girls start to realise that there are many dark secrets, and that nothing is as it seems.

I lovvvvved this audiobook! Caitlin Davies was an excellent narrator, conveying such emotion, suspense and tension. She had me so hooked from early on in the book, and I was on the edge of my seat listening to her!

Girls with Sharp Sticks was such a gripping book, but it was pretty disturbing and brutal! It was so powerful though, and really brought out the feminist in me! I haven't read anything else by Suzanne Young, but I will be looking her up now because the writing was so gooood! The story managed to evoke such anger, sick feelings and righteous rage in me, and yet it also elicited such feelings of love and protectiveness over these pure, sweet girls!
Mena (Philomena) was such a great main character for me, as we saw things through her eyes. We are with her as she is at first oblivious and obedient, and I loved seeing her realisation and awakening! I really rooted for her and the girls, and felt so shocked, panicked and furious for them! I also loved the relationships between Mena and her friends. They had such a strong bond, and they truly supported each other ❤️

The plot felt so relevant and plausible, even though the book was set in the not so distant future. Strong themes such as rape culture, gender stereotypes and misogyny were tackled, and not shied away from, which is so important!

I did see the major plot twist coming, and I would advise you not to look at the marketing, including the synopsis, as it links the book to some well known tv programmes..sigh! Nevertheless, even though I did predict what was coming, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the story.

I actually almost gave Girls with Sharp Sticks a full five stars, and probably would have if it was written as a standalone! I only realised part way through reading that it was in fact a series...
descriptionI think it would have been an even more powerful book if it was out there on its own, and had been wrapped up, however, I am still excited for Girls with Razor Hearts, and am looking forward to spending more time with these precious and funny characters!
Profile Image for Diana.
1,739 reviews223 followers
June 6, 2020
Re read June 2020
I enoyed it as much - if not more - thannthe first time around.

Woah. I loved this one. It was so edgy, so wtf is going on in this school, how are the girls corrected and taught, and so aware of women rights! Amazing lecture. Does anybody know when the 2nd one is comig out?

Vid review here https://youtu.be/VYMrbUMbEqc on November, 13rd, 2019
Profile Image for Brittany.
857 reviews112 followers
May 24, 2019
4.5 Stars!!

"Demonstrate your value to those in attendance by showing how appealing a beautiful, obedient girl can be. Hold your tongue. Bat your eyes. Smile. Be best."

Just imagine for a minute if.... the dark and sadistic world of West World....

AND Handmaid's Tale....

HAD A BABY..... it would be something like- Girls With Sharp Sticks!!

In Girls With Sharp Sticks, we are thrown into a world that seems to be on the edge of a New Wave of Dystopia. While the normal world still goes on outside the gates of Innovations Academy.. Something unworldly is happening in the Academy.

The Academy, a prestigious reforming school for girls are taught the “essentials” to become obedient submissive wives, homemakers, etc. The girls are not allowed to question the men or "guardians." Report cards measure beauty, compliance, poise, decorum and an attitude of obedience.

A sudden departure from one of the girls, puts Philomena and the rest of the girls on edge. Lennon Rose left without a goodbye or shoes. This starts a search for answers they didn't even know they needed! As the search begins, Mena starts to see things a little bit clearer.

She starts to see the lingering touches, the possessiveness, hears the crude comments, and notices how the girls are being basically brainwashed and programmed to do as these men say.

This really pushes the girls closer together, even more than before, to get to the bottom of what is happening.

The girls are treated so terrible, and its really sad bc at first none of them realize that the way they are treated is wrong. They are physically and emotionally abused and looked upon like cattle. They are limited to learning only certain things, and have no free will or freedom.

“They’ve trained you not to believe what you’re told by others. You have to come to it on your own. I can’t wake you, Philomena.”


I absolutely ate this little nugget up!!! There is a little something in this for everyone! Its a little mix of dystopian, sci-fi, action, mystery, and a very small bit of romance- if that's even what you would call it! The only thing that I had issues with was- I thought it could have been executed a little better - and if there would have been some heavy action scenes that would have been fab- but I guess we cant always get what we want :P Other than that, I adored it and cant wait for the next book!
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,159 reviews1,517 followers
May 15, 2019
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young is the first book of a new young adult science fiction fantasy series by the same name. Really this first book of the series is a bit o of genre stew as it has a bit of dystopian vibe, a bit of romance and can also be quite thrilling as the story unfolded.

Philomena “Mena” is one of the girls attending Innovations Academy, an elite and somewhat secretive boarding school where girls are graded more on looks and manners than academics. When out on a field trip Mena meets a teenage boy that captures her attention which leads to the beginning of Mena and her friends catching onto things at the school that are not quite what they seem.

Definitely a creepy and foreboding vibe from the very first few pages with this one. Things just become more and more tense and thrilling as the story continues too keeping the pages turning. As much fun as it was watching this one unfold I did however guess at the big reveals early on leaving me to rate this one at 3 1/2 stars but regardless I’m more than curious as to what will happen in another book in the series.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Erin .
1,232 reviews1,140 followers
Want to read
May 22, 2019
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Suzanne Young for sending me a finished copy of this book.

I was obviously mistakenly put on a list of cool people to receive this book but I'm not mad.

I'm super excited to read this!!!
Profile Image for Karima chermiti.
813 reviews153 followers
April 7, 2019

Only beautiful things have value

And I was right; Goodreads spoiled the entire book for me. I don’t really how to feel about that and what to do. Saying that girls with sharp sticks was like Westworld meets The Handmaid's Tale was like saying this is a book about and that’s exactly what the book was about. You know it’s not that hard to put one and one together and to get two as a result

For the first time ever, I went in the book predicting the twists to come and I was right every step of the way. To be honest, the book isn’t that clever about hiding its tracks, it lacks the subtlety or the nuance it needs and it was tedious and predictable. The author couldn’t make her message clearer than that, it felt like she was shoving her ideas down my throat because she didn’t trust that I would get in all on my own. I hate when authors do that, not leave readers the space to think or engage on their own.

I’m bitter about how the book turned out to be because it had the potential to give us a great story and yet if felt flat to me and very uninteresting even though it had a very disturbing creep factor going for it that made me sit on the edge of my seat but it couldn’t save the book for me. I was engaged, I’m not going to lie but it’s because I knew what was happening and I just wanted the characters to know as well so the story can start picking up the pace but the time it happened it was late for me, Nthing happens for a long time in this book and it just couldn't keep my interest piqued.

Demonstrate your value to those in attendance by showing how appealing a beautiful, obedient girl can be. Hold your tongue. Bat your eyes. Smile. Be best

The female characters, I don’t know, I couldn’t get to the core of them, I couldn’t connect with them and even though I understood where they were coming through and I felt anger and desperation over everything that they went through, I still felt myself distant from them. And to make matters worse, they are one dimensional, and they felt like tools to make the author’s idea manifest into the book.

The male characters on the other hand are portrayed like assholes, monsters, and ever the only decent male character had a hidden agenda and manipulated the girls at the start. Writing all the female characters as being victims who then take matters into their own hands liberating themselves and the male characters as monsters or liars doesn’t make for an interesting book because it lacks nuance, it lacks realism, it lacks any dynamics and it makes for a very straightforward book that has no layers or complexities.

I also don’t know how to feel about that twist or the ones before it, I saw them coming clearly but I think they took from the story and didn’t add anything to it, I mean they don’t change how the content of the book makes us feel, I still feel wronged and angry and sad. It’s not like the twists made me change my opinion about the book, the twists serve no purpose for me but maybe they will in the sequel.

And speaking of this being a series, I don’t think it needs to be one, The ending was clear and tied everything up while leaving something to be a mystery which is great to me. Leaving us with question marks is very clever sometimes, to make us even more engaged in the story we were told after it’s over and to keep thinking about it but Now I’m just over it already.

I’m so sorry this was such a negative review but you know I can see a lot of people really loving this book, it’s creepy, it’s has this mix of genres that a lot of people appreciate and enjoy and if you go for it without reading the Goodreads synopsis you may really enjoy it. Just take my review with a grain of salt and give it a chance, it has the content to make it a hit, I just don’t care for books that doesn’t let me think for myself and lead me by hand like I can’t manage on my own.

But the Sentiment behind the book is sincere and even though the execution left a lot of things to be desired, I appreciate the intention behind it. I certainly find this quote from the acknowledgment so beautiful

This book is for the girls who have suffered and fought for years, unacknowledged. I believe you. I see you. And I'll fight with you


Reading this book for O.W.L.'s MAGICAL READATHON which is a Harry Potter Readathon that takes place in the whole month of April and I chose this book for My Divination Exam

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this start to a thrilling, subversive near future series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young about a girls-only private high school that is far more than it appears to be

Why do I feel like GOODREADS just spoiled the entire book for me because now I have a very precise idea of what this book could be about. It will be the best thing ever if this book proves me wrong.
Profile Image for Lucy Tonks.
488 reviews716 followers
June 18, 2022
Here's to the book with one of the worst attempts at feminism I have ever seen first place, of course, still belongs to the garbage that is From Blood and Ash

Welcome to my very chaotic review! Good luck making sense of it!

Can you tell I'm salty?? and I will probably be like this for the rest of the review
I've seen so much hype around this book, literally everyone loves it and says it's such a great book that deals with feminism, and I'm just sitting here not seeing this at all.

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved, and under the guidences of their teachers all male might I add, they are bound to turn into perfect housewives. The all-girls boarding school offers courses like “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden”, “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design”. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena realises that their so beautiful existence is not as quite as it seems. And of course she and her friends stat to uncover the secrets of the academy and about themselves.

I don't know why I thought I would like this book. I should have figured out from the sypnopsis that I would not think this book to be good. But the hype got to me.

The premise actually sounded cool in a way, but also pretty basic for this kind of a book. Either way my expectations were higher. Did the idea seem original? Not really. Did I still hope for something great? Yes, as I've been unluckily lately with my book picks.

I don't even know what the plot was supposed to be. Everything was all over the place and the moment you think you get a hang on what the plot is supposed to be, the author throws in another shit that makes no sense. After a while, the book also became pretty repetitive and I was not a fan of that. The book could have been way shorter if the author just got to the point.

I couldn't care less about the characters. I don't even remember their names. For me to care about a book, I need to see well rounded characters with more than one character trait. They left no impression on me aside from the fact that they are all idiots. How could you not see those red flags?? They made have been raised like they were from the 1800s, but still they lived in the 2000s, there must have been something there to open their eyes to everything sooner.

The first red flag should have been that the teachers are all men and the women work in the kitchen 💀
The second red flag should have been that they have no contact with the outside world. No internet. No family. Nothing.
The third red flag should have been the impulse control therapy. Doesn't matter what happens there and how it works. The fucking name is a red flag.
I can go on with the red flags but I won't. We can already figure that the characters are stupid.

What better way to make this book feminist™️ than by having all the male characters be sexist pieces of shit? There's literally only one male characters in the whole book that isn't mysogonist. How the hell is that realistic in any way? This book should help young people understand sexism and feminism better, yet it shows the extremes of both and unlikely scenerious.

One thing that I hated about this book is how the author portrayed feminism and feminist characters as a whole. Instead of equality between genders, we got female characters who want the male to be afraid of them. Prime example:

"And then he I told me myself
Above all
You will have a kind razor heart.
For that, they will love fear you.
They will protect revere you
They will keep run from you
Because you belong to them no one.

So be a girl to make them proud afraid."

This is not the idea of feminism. I understand it made the girls in this book feel powerful, reading poems like this and feeling validated after the abuse they went through with the men in this book, but it still gives them the wrong impression. No gender should be above the other. We are all human after all.

And what do you think opened the eyes to the sexism? It was a boy! Who would have seen this coming? With a book focusing on girl power, you would think the main character would manage to do everything by herself, but nope she still needs the help of a some boy, she randomly met at a gas station one day.

None the relationships in the book has any build-up at all. Mena and Jackson randomly meet at that gas station and someone Jackson already cares about her after 5 minutes of interaction. I don't understand at all how this came to be. It makes no sense. Where is the development?? Make it make sense. And there's also the relationship that Mena has with the other girls and I hate the way they are so dependent on one another. They need to learn how to live on their own, be their own person. Where are the independent girl bosses I was promised??

Also this is just a me thing, but this book just screams gay. The title? Gay. The sypnopsis? Gay. Yet i get the straighest shit ever. This is probably the thing that has disappointed me the most.

The writing style was bad. The dialogue felt all so unnatural. It was so cringy, I can see that Mena was sheltered, but not even Cress from The Lunar Chronicles was this awkward. No one talks like this or says lines like this, no matter the enviroment they were put in. I still cannot believe some of the lines I stumbled upon.

As you can tell this was terrible. I wouldn't recommend it even to my worst enemies. Make yourself a favour and if you have it on your tbr, just remove it from there and forget this exists.

1 star
I wish I could give this a lower rating, just thinking about it and I get more mad.
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews272 followers
February 26, 2021
There are red roses as far as I can see, beautiful and lonely.Lonely because its only them-all together, but apart from the other flowers. Isolated.

Girls with Sharp Sticks (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #1)
by Suzanne Young

My review:

Before I even begin, thanks Monica! You recommended this and it was a heck of a read.

This had been on my TBR for ages. I'd had bad luck with Dystopian before. It seemed after Divergent and Hunger Games. many series I read just did not click with me. This did.

And I am not sure I'd even call it dystopian. I have to be very careful here not to give to much away. But basically..the setting is an elite all girl boarding school. It is run by mysterious and wealthy individuals and the girls who attend are schooled.

But they are not schooled the way most people are. These girls are educated in things like "how to be a lady" and keep one's appearance beautiful at all times. They are educated by men who objectify them and dehumanize them and they are given pills.."vitamins" nightly. When they act out they have to go through something called "impulse control therapy."

Girls with Sharp Sticks is a book for feminists, no doubt about it. And also no doubt that it will make said feminists angry. There are secrets in this school. Why did the parents of these girls send them here?

Why is little to no contact with the outside world aloud?

Who are the mysterious men who are their "guardians" and seem to both hate them and hold tight to them simultaneously?

Why the mysterious parties where the girls must dress up and mingle? The men of the academy always choose their dresses of coarse.

The girls are like well trained puppies, accepting all this as their destiny..at first.

Until the girls with sharp sticks enter. Hint. "The Girls with Sharp sticks" may not be what you think.

Told from the eyes of one of the academy girls, Philomena, this story is lonely, haunting, plaintive and very, very creepy. I did not expect the creepy factor to be what it was.

I would call this A Handmaid's tale YA meets Stepford Wives YA. Both of those books are among my all time favorites so you can imagine I gobbled this up.

It is part of a series and until recently I'd not have called myself a series person but I seem to be becoming one and plan to move on in the series.


I guessed the twist. It was pretty obvious. But I will say that does not interfare with my enjoyment of the book in any way and I doubt it will with yours.

It's a pretty heavy book. It was MUCH different than I'd thought it would be and now I wish I had not waited so long before reading it.

I would give this a strong four stars and look forward very much to continuing on in the series.
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,153 reviews241 followers
December 21, 2019
Okay, so this is going to be more of a warning than a review but I’m hoping it will give you a different reading experience than the one I had. The book itself is amazing and I cannot wait for the sequel. However, I’d seen marketing that compared this book to very well known TV series, a movie and a book, and armed with those names I was easily able to predict the most important spoilers in this book before I began reading. So, my warning is this:

Stay well away from marketing, reviews that may tell you too much and even the book’s copyright page if you don’t want your read to be tainted by spoilers.

I loved it despite my foreknowledge, but I’ll never know if I would have picked up on enough clues to figure out any of the reveals for myself or not, and that dulled some of the shine for me. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Profile Image for Sara.
369 reviews322 followers
February 12, 2020
This book was probably exactly what my reading slump needed, i flew through it and enjoyed it immensely.
This book doesn't have the most surprising twist, in fact i saw it coming from a mile off, but that's not to say it was a bad twist. I actually think the twist was really well done and i enjoyed the story more because of it.
(how many times can i say twist in this review?!)
Profile Image for Nadia.
270 reviews175 followers
February 5, 2020
2.5 stars (half star added for the cover)

I thought this book had an interesting premise and touched upon important topics like women's rights and equality. Unfortunately, the plot was moving at such a slow pace that I was thinking of DNF-ing the book after the first quarter. Even though the 'big twist' is not revealed until the very end, you can pretty much guess where the story is headed quite early on. In the end, I'm glad I persevered and finished the book, but I won't be continuing with the next one in the series.
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,001 reviews369 followers
March 8, 2019
4.5 Stars!

I always adore Suzanne Young's writing because her books are imaginative, dark, and always completely unique.

When I saw Girls With Sharp Sticks I knew that I needed it and most of all, I knew that I was in for quite the treat and quite the ride.

Girls With Sharp Sticks is like the school for Stepford Wives. Where they are grown and cultivated and...well brainwashed. It was horrifyingly fascinating and I couldn't get enough of it with, after each chapter, things started to get clearer about exactly what the Academy was and what they were doing.

I swayed back and forth between being sick about what I was actually reading and being completely enthralled that such a thing was being taught and that worst of all, the girls didn't know any better.

This story. I really don't even know where to begin other than it was pure genius mixed in with some sci fi angles, ruthlessness, and pure delight. It truly kept me so entertained, turning the pages in both revulsion and in pure fascination. I couldn't get enough.

I am so excited for the next book. I am not ready to say goodbye to this terrifying world Young created nor the head strong girls that ruled this book. The girl power was simply amazing and I adored it.

*ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Shealea.
441 reviews1,203 followers
May 12, 2021
Revoking my 5 stars because what the absolute fuck is this series.

Not only is this peak white 'i am woman, hear me roar' feminism bullshit but also, and more strangely, the big plot twist is nonsensical and effectively cheapens an already shallow, endlessly-regurgitated message on feminism ().

Moreover, trans and nonbinary folk exist and are also victims of the patriarchy. This "feminist" series does a disservice by never even acknowledging them. The last book, Girls with Rebel Souls, was released in 2021 - but this entire series feels like it was written in 2000s. Gross. I hate it.
Profile Image for JenacideByBibliophile.
209 reviews127 followers
March 15, 2020
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster: Simon Pulse, for an honest review.


Girls with Sharp Sticks is a YA Fiction with a message that is most certainly, non-fiction.

You’re not leaving here without a few stab wounds to your heart and soul, so get those bandages ready.

Innovations Academy breeds obedient, beautiful girls. They are taught to set a table in Modern Manners, how to speak and act formally in Social Graces Etiquette, to keep their figures in Running Course, and to never accuse a man of inappropriate behavior in Modesty and Decorum – for that would be worse than any crime! As graduation nears for the girls at Innovations Academy, they are primped and put on display for their parents and sponsors in order to find the “perfect opportunity through success”. The girls need only listen to the men and Professors at the academy, for they have their best interests at heart, and they know best.

“Too much thinking is bad for your looks”.


But when the sudden departure of one of the girls becomes know to the students of Innovations Academy, Philomena and her closest friends can’t let it go. As they search for answers to why their dear friend left, Mena starts to notice strange things from the men she so easily trusts and respects. Strange glances, lingering hands, comments and commands laced with possessive entitlement. It isn’t until the girls band together that they finally open their eyes and see, that their lives may not be exactly what they think.

“They’ve trained you not to believe what you’re told by others. You have to come to it on your own. I can’t wake you, Philomena.”


“Wake up.”

Girls with Sharp Sticks is everything your feminist heart has been looking for in a YA series.

It guides you into a building of structure and poise with a gentle tug on your arm, sits you at a table of love and respect with the smiles of every girl you see…

…all the while shredding your heart and leaving you feeling dirty, violated and used.


If you start to feel nauseous while reading, it’s because you can relate to some part of this.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned about this book, is the girls of Innovations Academy. They are pure innocence, inner beauty and kindness. They possess an amount of compassion so big your heart will seize, and you will care for them so deeply that you’ll feel as if a part of YOU has been endangered or hurt.

Because these girls are all of us.

They are light and happiness, delicate and resilient. They are unfiltered contagious smiles, and the sisters you always needed.

These girls are everything.

Therefore, it pains me to express how horrible these wonderful girls are treated. They are belittled by their teachers, taken advantage of by their guardians, thrown around like ragdolls, and told that what is best for them is to stay quiet and obedient. They are trained to be the perfect girls. Intelligent, modest, pure, compliant, and above all, beautiful and always put together. They are put on display at Open Houses where the girls can mingle with their parents, investors or sponsors in the hopes that they will be “purchased” for their exceptional looks and demeanor after graduation. For these girls, being pleasant and following the rules is of the utmost importance. Their worst fear is disappointing their parents or the staff at Innovations Academy.


This story has been created so intricately and worded so perfectly throughout, that it makes it SO hard to express the magnificence of it without giving away key details. I am incredibly impressed with how flawlessly Suzanne Young has woven this story into one with countless twists and dangers. The writing is breathtaking. It gives Mena and the girls HUGE voices and personalities that make them impossible to forget. There is an intricate balance of purity and grit throughout the story. It makes you want to latch on to every good fleeting moment, and wish that you could take a pill to forget the horrors.

An author having the ability to make me feel so sick after reading a book, is…an amazing gift to possess.

It’s almost impossible for me to focus while typing this, because I feel as if I was right next to these girls as they learned what their purpose really is. Where their friend really went. And it’s…devastating. The author has pulled out the inner child deep inside me and has both comforted and hurt her. She’s cut a hole in my stomach and sealed it back up with dirt and scotch tape. I am ravaged. I am stripped raw and laid bare.

I wish I could say more, because I feel like I need someone…ANYONE…to pour my heart out to about the tragic beauty that this book is. The story kept me hooked and addicted the entire time, pushing me to find the answers and to know what was happening at this elusive academy. The teachers were terrifying and sadistic, the investors even worse. But even though there was an overwhelming theme of possessive males forcibly overpowering what they thought was THEIRS, there is a bigger theme of strength and resilience. The message to RISE UP and fight for yourself and others is such an incredibly profound message that NEEDS to be screamed.

I can’t thank Suzanne Young enough for that.

With that said, I really cannot say anything more. I know this is vague by way of plot, but you would hate it if I told you more than this. All I can say, is YOU MUST READ THIS. It is The Handmaid’s Tale for the young adult and for every female who has felt frightened or overpowered. Your heart will thank you later for giving it this. I promise.
Profile Image for Monica (crazy_4_books).
682 reviews114 followers
July 14, 2021
It feels so GOOD to rate a book 5-stars and add it to my top favorites after a series of 3 or 4-star books! I wasn't expecting to like this one so much that I'm ordering the next book, oh yes! Read 75% of this book in one day. Stayed up until 2.30 am last night.
The girls at Innovations Academy are beautiful, young, well-behaved. They're being watched 24/7 by the Guardian, a creepy doctor, the principal and his wife (also creepy), so they "can" get an excellent education that will make them perfect. Literally. They are obedient at first, no defiance or troublesome opinions or free will! But this Academy is hiding something quite sinister. I say sinister because this book is marketed for YA readers, which is fine, but it reads pretty much in adult form. That is one of the reason I flew through it. Mena & her friends slowly uncover the dark secrets hidden of what's going on in this creepy institution and find out who they really are. And they learn to fight back, to defend themselves against predatory males. Those that watch them are all males, except for one. To say more is to spoil the whole thing. This is a book set in a near future but rooted in the #MeToo movement. What I loved about this book:
- It's a sci-fi suspense thriller with some gore scenes
- Characters are well developed in my opinion
- Not written or spoken in YA style, descriptions and dialogues fill with adult content
- It's fast-paced because you get sucked into the story really easily.
- The ending is open since there's a second book, and though it's not necessary to continue if you don't want to, I will because I loved this one.
- If you liked TV show "Westworld", "The handmaid's tale" (the TV show, not the book), "The Stepford wives" (2004 movie adaptation with Nicole Kidman), you'll love this book. It could be great as a movie
This book is beautifully weird, and I like weird. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Leo.
4,308 reviews385 followers
November 14, 2020
This was so intense and extremely intriguing. I loved learning about the girls at the boarding school and what the school did to the students. In one hand it was horrifying fascinating and in the other hand infuriating. I really feelt for the girls and cheered the on as they learned more. I would dare say this was an epic read. Definitely had me hooked at the end and I'm so curious on what gonna happen next
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,718 reviews856 followers
July 27, 2022
#2) Girls with Razor Hearts ★★★☆☆
#3) Girls with Rebel Souls ★★★☆☆

I loved Suzanne Young in high school but I wouldn't have gotten around to trying her newest series if I hadn’t stumbled across Girls with Sharp Sticks in a little op shop.

I found myself drawn into the world surprisingly quickly. Was it a little unoriginal? Absolutely. I think the ‘twists’ were utterly predictable but it barely bothered me. The delivery was well-paced, and the tension as Mena discovered more and more about the academy kept me hooked. What made it different from notably similar titles was its focus on solidarity. The entire plot centred on the girls banding together to support each other through their traumatic experiences and fight back. It was glorious.

The lack of romance also didn’t hurt. Is there potential for Jackson and Mena? Sure, but it felt so down-to-earth with none of the typical YA dystopia’s traditional ride-or-die declarations.

Recommended for fans of We Set the Dark on Fire or Only Ever Yours who are looking for something more introductory and better suited to a younger audience.

Trigger warnings for .

Representation: f/f side couple.

BlogTrigger Warning DatabaseStoryGraph
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,420 followers
March 22, 2021
This is the first instalment in the Girls with Sharp Sticks series.

Mina is one of the many beauties who attend the Innovations Academy. This isolated school houses a number of girls and tutors them in social etiquette, poise, manners, grace, and how to hone their most prized asset - their beauty. The Guardians who instruct them are the law and failure to abide by their rule results in harsh repercussions.

This first series instalment introduces the reader to Mina's world. Her naivety about her situation, and how it differs from the reality beyond the academy's gates, allows the reader to see the cruelty administered to these poor creatures and how easily brainwashed each are by their environment. Media is limited, the internet is forbidden, and the girls are trained to be brainless and voiceless beauties who lack the ability to think and act for themselves, beyond charming a male and doing his future bidding. The misogyny strongly features and circumstances only continue to become more harrowing as Mina's eyes are opened to the truth surrounding her.

Some of these truths felt like obvious reveals and that, combined with the heavy-handed deployment of prevalent sexism that featured, led me to feel a little distanced from the text. It was certainly pacey, engaging, and tense, but I longed for both some subtlety in the Academy's schemes and a longer exposure to their omnipotent rule for me to fully immerse myself in the girls' plight.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,133 reviews309 followers
April 13, 2019
An elite private school prepares young ladies for their future lives as Stepford Wives. You can pretty much guess the rest.

I would have liked a bit more depth, but having said that, this pretty much served exactly what I expected and what I wanted at the moment ie. a quick and entertaining enough read that didn't ask much of me.

I did like the ending. I feel like there is the potential for a very good story should Young choose to keep going. This is the only book by her that I've read, though, so I can't say whether she has the chops to go deeper with a story like this.

For those interested, even though this is listed as first in a series it does conclude in a good place.
Profile Image for Olivia | Liv's Library.
252 reviews1,108 followers
June 17, 2021
Whoa okay, this definitely took a turn that I wasn’t expecting! At the beginning of reading this, it seemed like it was just going to turn out to be another YA dystopian full of cliches. But the ending was super dark for YA and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

This book was very well written and developed and I can’t wait to pick up the next one in the series!
Profile Image for Inge.
347 reviews886 followers
May 10, 2019
4.5 stars

Girls With Sharp Sticks was so hard to put down! I finished it within two days, because I had to know what happened next. The book has everything I could possibly want - a boarding school that hides MaNy EvIl SeKrItS, strong female friendships, and a group of angry women to bring down the patriarchy.

I'm finding it hard to put down my thoughts into words, because reading it was so uncomfortable but also so good? You should be aware of content warnings such as sexual harassment and emotional and physical abuse, but it's also about a lot more than that. It's about girls rising up. It's about friendship. It's about love.

Basically, this book is powerful and and Feminist As Fuck.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy
Profile Image for Adah Udechukwu.
621 reviews83 followers
March 21, 2019
Girls with Sharp Sticks was an exhaustive and weird novel. I was immediately bored after the first 5 chapters and the 25 chapters after that didn't change things at all.
I never really got into the novel. The novel was off from start to finish. The novel was not compelling and there was no desire to continually read on.
The novel was bland
Profile Image for Valliya Rennell.
364 reviews230 followers
May 10, 2021
3.25 stars

"If you believe in equality, you're a feminist. Sorry to tell you."
- Emma Watson

There is a lot to discuss with this one, oh boy. Girls with Sharp Sticks follows Philomena Rhodes and her friends as they attend a peculiar school called Innovations Academy. This academy is run by men that teach them how to be obedient, beautiful, and quiet. Because that is all that a girl needs to be right? However when a girl named Lennon Rose goes missing and Mena finds a book of outrageous poems, a fight against the academy has been set in motion. Will the girls figure out what is going on before it is too late?

Clearly this book deals a lot of feminism and women standing up for themselves, but I'll leave that for later. Instead let's skim over the elements of the book: The plot is well-paced. It keeps you on your toes the entire time. I didn't want to stop reading until I found out what was really going on with Innovations Academy. The characters unfortunately do disappoint. Sydney, Annalise, Brynn, Marcella... all of them seem the same. Mena is different as she is our main character so we get to know her more. Valentine is different because she is weird from the beginning. Lennon Rose disappears in the start so we don't find out much about her. I really hope book 2 mixes stuff up. Also the writing is very trashy. But that was to be expected.

Now onto the real important stuff: feminism. Overall this is probably the best portrayal of feminism that I found in YA so far. THAT BEING SAID. It does fall apart towards the end. In my eyes feminism is the love of women and therefore equality, NOT the hatred of men. For most of the book this is portrayed very well as we are shown that the men OF THE ACADEMY are wrong. They mistreat the girls etc. But then there is Jackson who helps them and is good. This shows equality. Towards the end the dynamic shifts a lot to more "men suck, the world is bad because men". I am not a fan of this mentality. .

All in all, I found this book to be very entertaining. I am curious to see how the author continues the themes of female empowerment in book 2.


After writing the review I remember that I forgot to bring something up.... WHY DOESN'T THIS ACADEMY HAVE CAMERAS?? They literally WORKED IN TECHNOLOGY. Even before Innovations took over, this was a tech factory. Wouldn't they have cameras? To make sure that the workers were doing their job/not stealing? You'd think so. But nope! All they needed were the cameras and this book would have been over by chapter 2... kind of convenient.

Books in Series:
#1 Girls with Sharp Sticks: ★★★.25
#2 Girls with Razor Hearts: ★.75
Profile Image for Kiera.
319 reviews117 followers
May 27, 2019
You can find my full review on my WordPress blog: kierasbookishthoughts

***There are spoilers throughout this review***

5 stars

We may have found a new favorite???

This book is absolutely genius, I’m not usually drawn to sci-fi but I feel like Girls with Sharp Sticks was something totally different. I still don’t even know what to do with myself.

Everything about this book = perfection.

Writing is so well paced. I love the plot and the chapters aren’t too long *hooray*So many cliffhangers! There were a lot of little cliffhangers at the end of the chapters which pushed me to keep reading.Great characters with lots of development and they were very interesting.The whole idea of this book is just incredible.Such beautiful writing!

This book follows Mena who attends this school that is entirely run by men. She was placed in this school along with other girls by her parents who wanted them to be ‘proper ladies’. However, things start to take a downward spiral when the girls start noticing things that aren’t right about the school. What is the school doing to them?

*** Spoilers till end***

In the book they have this procedure called impulse therapy. It is where they basically rewire the girls brains and alter their memories to keep them from knowing too much. If one girl shows signs that she might know whats happening they bring her to impulse therapy. But the thing is….The girls don’t remember it. So, Mena voluntarily gets impulse therapy to figure out what’s going on.

They find this poem:

"The men wanted to dissolve women’s rights

All so they could feel needed

But when they couldn’t control women

The men found a group that they didn’t distain–

At least not yet

Their daughters, pretty little girls

A picture of femininity for them to mold

To train

To control"

She bonds together a group of girls and they use their skills to sneak around and figure out that the school isn’t all what it seems to be. Using the poem as inspiration. The girls had never been exposed to such words and such ideas that they ‘woke Jo’s and realized what was going on.

"The little girls adapted."

They discover that the pills they are given to take every night are blinding them and not letting them think properly. Some of the pills even erased memories. They discover a lab in the basement where the doctor has been testing on the girls. And they discover that the personal assistants that the girls are allowed to call in order to get in touch with your parents are actually not real and the conversations the girls have are recorded and studied. So they have no way to contact the outside world and get help!

There were so many amazing twists and turns in this book. I could my stop reading!! My eyes were literally glued to the pages.

The girls make a plan to escape and find out what’s going on.

So they sharpened their sticks.

"They gathered sticks to count them

Learning their own math

And then they sharpened their sticks

It was these same little girls

Who came home one day

And pushed their daddies down the stairs

They bashed their heads with hammers as they slept

They set the houses in fire with their daddies inside

And then those little girls with sharp sticks

Flooded the school

They rid the buildings of false ideas."


I have honestly never read anything like this. You can’t say you’ve read anything until you’ve read this. Seriously. I feel like a whole new universe has opened for me after reading this book.

5 stars. I want every human being to read this and love it.

"And so it was for a generation

The little girls became the predators"
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