The one good thing about 2019, was that it was a fantastic reading year. This was mainly thanks to NetGalley letting me read pre-publication proofs in exchange for reviews. Of course, there were good and bad books—including that eminently forgettable whodunit in which the only gay character was also the deranged killer—and also very unremarkable books. But there was also some outstanding YA.
Girls with Sharp Sticks (Suzanne Young)
This utterly fascinating, fantastic and disturbing YA dystopian fantasy is set in the not-so-far future. Or maybe it is already a reality. The picture-perfect girls of Innovations Academy are being groomed to be the best young women that society can showcase—demure, obedient, pliable, and most of all, beautiful. They live strictly disciplined lives under the supervision of their Guardians. Until one day, Philomena meets an outsider who upsets her carefully controlled existence and makes her question everything she and her friends have taken for granted. Through this uncomfortable and yet extremely uplifting story, Suzanne Young asks subtle and troubling questions about gender roles in society.
The writing is good, tension is perfect; and for a change the climax is not a let down. If I had a criticism, it would be that Philomena’s self-awareness might have come too easily given that she didn’t really know anything different. Anyway, this book should be a compulsory read for young girls, boys, and everyone else, to understand a great deal about how gender plays out in our world. Actually, a great many adults would benefit from it too.
A highly recommended read for today’s adolescents. If you enjoyed Louse O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, you’ll love this.
A Danger to Herself and Others (Alyssa B. Sheinmel)
There are many good contemporary YA novels tackling mental health-related themes, but this is one of the best I’ve read.
Told from the perspective of teenager Hannah, who has been sectioned after an incident at her summer school, the unveiling of the plot was twisty and delicious. Hannah’s relationship with her new therapist and her roommate, her baby steps to getting her life back…it all came together in a series of shocking revelations.
The author hits the protagonist’s voice perfectly, particularly her disdain towards the staff at the hospital, and her complete confidence that she can out-manipulate them to her own end. It’s difficult to say too much about the plot without hinting at spoilers, so all I’ll say is, READ IT!