April 8, 2020

Reviews: Girls with Razor Hearts + Goodbye from Nowhere + Rules for Being a Girl

Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks #2) by Suzanne Young
pub 3/17/20 by Simon Pulse
Young Adult - Dystopian
Received e-ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars | This series really feels like a YA version of The Handmaid's Tale. The actions of the men and boys in power and what these girls witness are horrifying but it's that underlying kernel of truth in this dystopian novel that makes it truly scary. Girls with Razor Hearts continued to move me and surprise me much like its predecessor did and I'm really impressed by the story and world Suzanne Young crafted here. It picks up a few weeks after Mena and the other girls of the Innovations Academy have escaped their boarding school and they want to take down the corporation that imprisoned them. They enroll in Stoneridge Prep to find the son of an investor and infiltrate the corporation from there. But the boys at the school are worse than they realized and they don't know who to trust. The situation at school and the adults determined to control their path gave the story its suspenseful backdrop and while I was able to predict one or two things, there were definitely shocking moments. But what I enjoyed the most were the strong feminist themes and the friendship between these young women determined to make a difference. They could've kept running but instead chose to take a stance to fight for their own rights, and that of the other girls, to live and feel freely.

Do I recommend? For sure! I thought it was supposed to only be duology but turns out there's another book! I have a feeling it's going to be explosive.


pub 4/2/20 by Balzer + Bray
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐ 2 stars | This is my fifth Sara Zarr book and I've always felt she was underrated. But I have to say, this one really missed the mark. On one hand, I think she approaches Kyle and his family's story with honesty, and doesn't shy away from showing all the messy, grey parts of their situation. When he finds out his mother has been having an affair, that his father knew and they expect Kyle to keep it a secret, he falls apart. He quits baseball, ghosts his serious girlfriend, and shuts everything out. There's no excuse for how he acts but the poor guy is just a jumble of anxiety. His two older sisters are MIA and he doesn't want to talk to his friends, so he mainly turns to his cousin Emily. One of the best parts of the novel is their big family and the close relationships between siblings and cousins. That said, the closeness between Kyle and Emily is portrayed by the author strangely. There were moments where she almost implied Kyle was interested in Emily and even his sisters tease him about it. It was just weird and I didn't get how it furthered the story or his character development at all. Your cousins can be some of your best friends (I can attest to this), and there shouldn't be anything weird about it. In the end though, the story is ultimately about Kyle needing to decide what and if he can do what's best for himself and his family. Honestly, I only vaguely remember the ending at this point but I want to say it was satisfying?

Do I recommend? Given how little I remember the conclusion, that probably tells you everything you need to know. I'm still a fan of Zarr's writing though so if you'd like to give her a shot, I'd recommend Roomies or How to Save a Life instead.


Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell, Katie Cotugno
pub 4/7/20 by HarperTeen
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub for review
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars | I've never read anything by Candace Bushnell before but you know I 100% picked this up because of Katie Cotugno. To me Rules for Being a Girl felt like a quintessential Cotugno book – messy, complicated and feminist. It tells Marin's story, who is a star student, editor of her school paper with her best friend, has a boyfriend, and is applying to colleges like Brown University. Like many girls at her school, she has an innocent crush on her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett ("Bex"). He takes an interest in her writing and they talk about books but when he comes on to Marin, she immediately turns him away and is horrified. She tells the administration what happened and instead of getting support, the school and her classmates turn on her and she still needs to face Bex in class every day. It was heartbreaking and infuriating to see this unfold because I could totally see this happening in real life. It took courage to speak up but Marin doesn't just stop there. She uses the school paper to fight back and starts a feminist book club. I admired Marin so much for finding ways to get her message out there in the face of all this opposition. But between her parents' support and the book club, Marin is able to find solace and even more energy to fight what's happening at her school. What also moved me was Marin's own growth. She recognized some of the biases and judgements she'd made in the past and comments she previously laughed off, and took a good look at herself to recognize her mistakes. She grew as an individual and again, I admired that so much.

Do I recommend? Yes! It's hard not to react to what unfolds in it but it's such a well-told story. I highly recommend.



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