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Girls With Sharp Sticks
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Suzanne Young's Girls With Sharp Sticks is a thriller set in Innovations Academy, an elite boarding school for girls. But the Academy is anything but innovative or forward looking. Its academic curriculum includes no history, math or science, only classes like Modesty and Decorum, Social Graces Etiquette, Plant Design and Development, and Modern Manners, and the girls are admitted solely on their beauty and temperament. After graduation, the girls will be "placed" with men looking for young, beautiful, and compliant wives. Compliance, the Academy believes, "is an appealing quality" in a young woman. But rebellion is brewing among the 12 girls in the current class. Three violent deaths are described, the girls are often manhandled and threatened by Academy staff, and a sexual assault is alluded to. The novel, which is the first book in a planned series, poses some serious questions for teens and parents: What makes for a "perfect" girl in the eye's of today's media? How is that different from the qualities they and their family most value in a young woman?
What's the story?
As GIRLS WITH SHARP STICKS begins, the 12 girls in Innovations Academy's current class are just four months from graduation. An elite boarding school for girls set in rural Colorado, its students are selected for their beauty and temperament and the curriculum is centered around manners, modesty, gardening, flower arranging, and cooking. Upon graduation, the girls will be "placed" with men looking for beautiful and dutiful young wives When not in class, their every move is watched by the always threatening Guardian Bose, a man who can walk unannounced into their bedrooms. If a girl appears "too spirited" or acts out in any way, she's sent for "impulse control therapy." None of the girls knows exactly what this is, as any memories of the therapy are erased as soon as it's completed. Philomena Rhodes is one of the troublesome girls, always skirting the rules. On a rare outing outside the school, she meets a boy named Jackson and they begin meeting secretly. This taste of freedom changes everything for Mena and she begins to question her life at Innovations. Why hasn't she been able to see or talk to her parents since she arrived? What's in the "vitamins" Guardian Bose forces them to take each night? Most important, what really happens when rebellious girls are sent to "impulse control therapy"? When her friend Lennon Rose vanishes, Mena doesn't believe the school when they say she's gone back to her parents. Searching Lennon's room, she finds a violent poem titled "Girls With Sharp Sticks" that talks of girls taking action (including murder) to set themselves free from the men who dominate them. Reading the poem is the tipping point for Mena and her friends, as they decide the only way they'll be able to take back control of their own lives is to escape from Innovations. But before they do, Mena wants to find out what's been going on behind the locked door of the school laboratory.
Is it any good?
A page turner of a thriller, filled with never-saw-that-coming twists and turns, that poses serious questions about the qualities society most values in young women. Girls With Sharp Sticks gets off to a pretty slow start and some readers may wonder when anything exciting will ever happen, but the story soon picks up the pace and ultimately races to a can't-put-it-down finish.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how girls and women are valued (or devalued) in Girls With Sharp Sticks. Do you think today's media culture gives more attention to girls and women they consider beautiful or stylish and less attention to those who may be less attractive but more accomplished? What impact does media culture have on the way you and your friends view yourselves?
What makes a girl popular in your school -- being a leader, how she looks, getting great grades, being a good athlete, dating a popular boy, always looking out for others? Do you agree with how your classmates decide who's popular and who isn't? If not, what would you change?
What do you think the future holds for Mena and her friends?
- Author: Suzanne Young
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: March 19, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.