Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Review: Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Book: Girls With Sharp Sticks
Author: Suzanne Young
Series: Girls With Sharp Sticks #1

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.

To any feminists out there: this is an extremely powerful book about misogyny, self-realization, and empowerment. And I absolutely loved it.

This book is about a group of girls attending a school called Innovations Academy. There's only 12 of them in the entire school, which speaks to just how elite they are. These girls are taught and modelled after the picture of femininity: learning--and excelling--at courses such as Social Graces, Interior Design, Cooking, and so forth. They are perfect young ladies with extremely bright future prospects upon graduation. 

Obviously, this alone should flash warning signs. The irony is that it's set in a world like ours, so the notion is absurd as it sounds to any people living outside the school. But not to these girls, who live day in and day out inside it. However, this book really hit home for me. The girls' initial mindsets about how they are taught to be embarrassed and shamed by any form of unobedient behaviour, to feel that doing so produces some kind of deserved consequence, it all rang a hollow bell of social recognition in me. So it was extremely empowering to read about how these girls were able to wake up, and to rise above these mindsets they have been so relentlessly conditioned into.

This book dealt with issues of sexism and misogyny, to the extreme where girls are being trained to be absolutely perfect and pleasing for men. Everything from learning only about how to best benefit or please men in looks and social graces to being freaking "grateful for having men to take care of them" to being emotionally manipulated and victim shamed. This kind of raw and unabashed portrayal of "perfect girls" was a serious wake-up and warning call to the society we live in today. It disturbingly echos a lot of social norms and expectations girls have grown up in, and continue to internalize, especially things like needing men's protection in society or the role of being a docile wife. This book asks a lot of uncomfortable but necessary, eye-opening questions to how we treat girls in society and how girls are expected to treat themselves.

Though there was a bit of a sci-fi twist to it, the message this book spoke was extraordinarily loud and clear. So I'll finish by saying this: women are NOT objects whose main objective is to make men's lives easier. Fighting for agency does NOT mean women are ungrateful, disrespectful, improper, or unappreciative. And nor should they EVER be shamed of embarrassed into thinking so.

For when society tries to define our value solely by how well we serve the patriarchy, we sure as hell have a tendency to fight back.

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