Finn Longman's Reviews > Girls with Sharp Sticks

Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
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This had an interesting (and deeply unsettling) premise, but I felt like that wasn't quite enough to sustain a book of this length -- it needed something MORE to merit the page count. It's sci-fi, but the speculative elements don't enter until a LONG way into the book, which means the early part feels quite confusing: you don't know exactly when it's set, or where, and while that echoes the isolation of the girls, it makes for a confusing experience. Then, once the tech does enter, it feels a little displaced, since nothing up until that point suggested it was speculative.

The voice was effective, especially seeing how the characters gradually break free of their conditioning, but it was a little TOO gradual in some respects and too sudden in others: it's a substantial book, but shifts of opinion and character happen very suddenly. I really enjoyed the theme of friendship and how the alliance between the girls was crucial to their identity, but I never felt I fully got a handle on who most of the characters were, barring a couple of central figures; a lot of them felt vaguely interchangeable, though my poor memory for names might be part of the problem.

Although the whole book deals with the same theme -- girls being manipulated and controlled by men who then break free, supported by their friendship and love for each other -- it still felt like the second half of the book wasn't the same book as the first one, partly as a result of it taking what felt like a sudden swerve to the speculative. If the sci-fi elements had been more evident from the beginning, it would have felt more unified. And while I enjoy SF, I actually feel maybe I would have found the theme more effective if it had just been a more realistic dystopian setup, without all the tech, even if it made the story more believable within the rules of the world. (Until the later part of the book, it was still difficult to understand why a "school" like this was being allowed to exist -- but a dystopia could be created to easily explain that, and perhaps a more human approach would have given the theme more weight.)

The book also lacked subtlety, I guess. It had a very binary gender divide: girls good, men bad, at least within the 'school' itself. This felt reductive and, to be honest, probably undermined the book for me. Throughout it, the emotions depicted kind of existed on a binary: you're either all love or all cruelty, all submissive or all rage. I think that contributed to some of the character development feeling incredibly sudden and underdeveloped: they flipped from one extreme to the other, at least as far as the narrative could show. Only Mena's point of view showed anything resembling nuance and I still felt it was limited.

It was clear that the author was trying to make a specific point. I think she succeeded at making it. She then continued to make it for, like, 400 pages, in a manner that suggested she didn't really expect her readers to join any dots for themselves. I felt the premise could have been explored with more subtlety and depth and I would have enjoyed it more.

That isn't to say I hated the book -- SOMETHING made me finish it -- but. eh. It wasn't for me.
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Reading Progress

May 29, 2019 – Started Reading
May 29, 2019 – Shelved
May 29, 2019 – Shelved as: netgalley
May 29, 2019 –
38.0% "Ooh, this is very unsettling and creepy."
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: canon-queer-characters
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: by-women
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: books-read-in-2019
May 30, 2019 – Shelved as: unbury-your-queers
May 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

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