I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #2) by Suzanne Young
Also by this author: Hotel Ruby, Girls with Sharp Sticks (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #1)
Published by Simon Pulse on March 17, 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Pages: 400 •Format: ARC •Source: Publisher
Make me a girl with a razor heart…
It’s been weeks since Mena and the other girls of Innovations Academy escaped their elite boarding school. Although traumatized by the violence and experimentations that occurred there, Mena quickly discovers that the outside world can be just as unwelcoming and cruel. With no one else to turn to, the girls only have each other—and the revenge-fueled desire to shut down the corporation that imprisoned them.
The girls enroll in Stoneridge Prep, a private school with suspect connections to Innovations, to identify the son of an investor and take down the corporation from the inside. But with pressure from Leandra, who revealed herself to be a double-agent, and Winston Weeks, an academy investor gone rogue, Mena wonders if she and her friends are simply trading one form of control for another. Not to mention the woman who is quite literally invading Mena’s thoughts—a woman with extreme ideas that both frighten and intrigue Mena.
And as the girls fight for freedom from their past—and freedom for the girls still at Innovations—they must also face new questions about their existence…and what it means to be girls with razor hearts.
It’s no secret that Girls with Sharp Sticks was one of my favorite books of 2019. I was absolutely thrilled when I was offered an ARC of the sequel, Girls with Razor Hearts and could not wait to dive into this sci-fi/dystpopian story again (which is a true testament to how well written this series is, as those are genres not typically in my reading wheelhouse!) While I found Girls with Razor Hearts to have an overall different vibe than its predecessor, I still very much enjoyed this story of feminism, strength and resilience.
*Note, this review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, but not the second!
Girls with Razor Hearts picks up pretty immediately after the events of Girls with Sharp Sticks, opening with the core gang escaping from Innovations Academy and trying to process everything they learned at the end of book one. How they are actually artificial intelligence, created and crafted to the specifications of donors, to cater to their whims, fantasies and tastes. This series is so creative in how it takes a somewhat “scary” premise (AI becoming so intelligent it can think for itself/outsmart humans) and making it heartfelt and vulnerable. Philomena and her fellow girls are so earnest and empathetic and supportive of each other and their emotions don’t feel lessened because they aren’t fully “human.” Yet they must deal with being treated as objects because of their origins (and the story explains the further layers of oppression that some experience based on other traits too, such as the struggles one of the girls faces due to her darker skin or the debasement they suffer from being women in a patriarchal society). Their experience as AI young women was nuanced, varied and heartbreaking, and I appreciated the multiple layers that the author added to their experiences.
Out of the academy, most of the novel takes place in the “real world,” with the girls trying to find the core investors of the academy and infiltrating a fancy private school in order to do so as they have information that one of the investor’s children may attend school their. Seeing Philomena and her friends have to navigate an actual high school rather than the bubble of Innovations Academy is difficult, especially as it’s filled with vile and rage-inducing characters who treat those who are different than them (in gender, social standing, etc) horribly, and the school system and administration is set up to protect them and reward them for this behavior. It may seem over the top for Philomena and her friends to encounter so much hatred in one school, however I saw it as an example of the many, many micro (and not so micro) aggressions that many have to face in society all emphasized in one environment that is the ideal setting to breed and normalize such behavior. It really reaffirms Philomena’s fight with the other girls to find the investors and push for a better, more compassionate world.
In this installment there’s many new characters introduced with varying agendas on how they want to change the social sphere, from regressing to radical. It added a balance to the story, as Philomena meets characters (such as the author of the poems who originally “woke” the girls) who swing too far in the anti-men camp for her liking, and challenge her to evaluate the behavior of all of the men she has met. While the message of “dismantle the patriarchy” can be strong in this series, Young also balances it with characters who defy the stereotypes and push Philomena to critically think about what she knows about the academy and what she thinks about the world around her that she’s encountering for the first time.
Overall: Girls with Razor Hearts is a difficult yet important installment to this series that showcases how horrific things are both at Innovations Academy and the real world. Now that Philomena and her friends are “awake,” they must think critically about their place in the world, the behaviors they witness, and how to forge the right path forward. I look forward to the next installment!