For What It's Worth

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Review: Girls with Razor Hearts

It’s time to fight back in this second novel in a thrilling, subversive near future series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Young about a girls-only private high school that is far more than it appears to be.

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. ~
Goodreads

Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review:  This is an incredibly difficult book to review without spoilers – so maybe consider the whole thing a spoiler if you don’t want to know anything about book #1 but there won’t be spoilers for this book.

Just to repeat SPOILERS FOR BOOK #1 ahead!!

Girls With Razor Hearts picks right up where Girls with Sharp Sticks left off. The girls, finding out they were created in a lab to be the perfect women and subservient to men, *woke up* and made their (violent) escape and are now free looking for a place to live safely, make a plan to go back and get the rest of the girls and take down the main investors of the Innovations Academy.

They end up enrolled in Stoneridge Prep academy, a private school, that brings them closer to the answers they need to truly be free but also shows them that escaping the academy doesn’t mean the end of their problems with men or misogyny.

The girls have never really encountered men outside of the academy – other than the main character’s love interest Jackson and his best friend. Their wary, with good reason, but also expect better of he *real* world. So they’re shocked when they encounter bro & rape culture and those in power, both men and women, who look the other way.

The generic high school setting isn’t nearly as interesting or compelling as when the girls were discovering who they were or fighting for their lives in book 1 – but this could have been kind of interesting. Imagine being free for the first time in your life and discovering that the world is just an endless fight with corrupt and abusive men. It wasn’t just an academy thing. Where do you go from there? Is anywhere a safe place? What constitutes a normal life for them?

Unfortunately, I felt like Young tried to cram in every single issue that women encounter ever. Alongside all the issues carried over from the first book that still needed addressing, It was a lot. Almost too much and very heavy handed. Men are bad. Message received like a hammer to the head.

My other issue is the how the girls/women in this book are portrayed. The girls that escaped have an unbreakable bond from what they’ve been through but their current state of mind an motivations vary greatly. Mena, the MC, just wants to save the other girls and end the academy. She believes there are good and bad people – including men. Some of the other girls and adult women want revenge.

And I get that – but it’s taking a dark turn. That could be cool to explore! Is revenge justification to becoming what you fear and loath? Are the women being just as controlling and manipulative of the girls as the men from the academy were? Mena kind of questions or disagrees with things but moves on. Young only half-heartedly explores this and it's a shame.

I’m not sure if this is middle book syndrome – lots of set up in book #2 – then race to a hastily wrapped up threads and moral quandaries in the last book or she has lost control of this story.

There are so many characters (I lost track since they come and go), so many points to be made, so many plot twists and so many remaining issues that a lot was left up in the air or hastily explored.

Suzanne Young knows how to write biting sci-fi social commentary and can write plot twists like nobodies' business, but in this case, it seems more like cramming in a lot of issues that, yes, are shocking, relevant, and fast paced but left me feeling like not a lot actually happened and how the heck is she going to resolve it all in just one more book?

In short – I felt like this book needed a scalpel and not a sledgehammer to make it truly bone-chilling and subversive.

For a different POV – read Greg’s review! He thought it was a worthy sequel that didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome.



27 comments:

  1. I'm not sure about this series...I've seen Greg's review and I'm confused as to what I'd think of it!

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    1. I really like the author and the things she's willing to explore but there's a lot going on in this one. Personally, I think it would have been better as a duology.

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  2. Yikes, sounds like this could have done with some serious editing. Throw out half the issues and dial back the man hate and it might just be okay. LOL

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    1. The girls have EVERY reason to hate and mistrust men! But I think the book is taking a turn where the girls aren't much better and she only touches on that instead of digging deeper.

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  3. I really need to read this series. I've read both positive and negative... I'm so curious!

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    1. I also highly recommend The Program by her!

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  4. I've seen this one on the blogs recently and it sounds pretty good.

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    1. Its not my favorite by her but it's not bad.

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  5. Oh that evil middle book syndrome, been there done that

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    1. She usually writes duologies or companion novels so I was kind of surprised by the cliffhanger.

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  6. Ooo I read Greg's review first and I saw all the glowing compliments he gave so it's interesting to see the other side! STILL gotta read the first book.

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    1. It had a lot of interesting concepts. It didn't quite pan out in book #2 for me but still interesting.

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  7. Always admire an author that can write those epic plot twists!!! I haven't read these books but they sound intriguing.

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  8. I just skimmed a bit because I haven't read the first one. Sorry it kind of fell into "middle book syndrome" for you. Hopefully the next one will be better!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I'm not even sure it's middle book syndrome so much as her trying to fit a lot of ideas into one book. But I hope you enjoy it when you to it Lauren.

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  9. This is a really hard book to review w/o spoilers lol- so true!! I agree that this could have been even better with an emphasis on the strange new world elements- what would it be like to be newly awakened like that and experiencing this whacked out world of ours lol? I mean, she did address that but it could have been more. And you're right, it is heavy handed. I was like wow don't be shy or anything about what you really think haha! The political aspects didn't really bother me because I mostly agree, but it was like a sledgehammer approach for sure! The first book felt more dystopian whereas this had a lot of real life elements.

    One other thing I'm not sure how I feel about are the plans at the end- I feel like this works better as an examination of these robotic women and how they're actually people, and their struggle to fit in, and I'm not sure the whole evil plot to remake the world element works for me...

    And thanks for the shout out! :)

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    1. OMG yes! So hard to discuss spoiler free!! lol

      I think she addressed everything well and kind of loved the idea of them thinking they're escaping this patriarchal world of abuse just to fall into a different one. And if anything, they're even less in control with nowhere to stay - no one to trust.

      I guess, to me, it felt like she was just rolling through a list of awful things guys do which was absolutely accurate but I thought it would have been better to focus on maybe one of two so it would have been a more biting commentary.

      And your last paragraph - YES! This whole thing is sort of sprinkled throughout and sort of...glossed over?? Mena is kind of...well, that's not right...but moves along so there's no build up and the girls are scattered, dropping these little comments here and there.

      I love the idea of these things but not together. Or maybe if they tied in better. I don't know lol It just seemed like this could have been a whole lot creepier or sharper if it was focused more.

      I think I asked you this before - but have you read The Program by Young? I really liked that one.

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  10. "I think she addressed everything well and kind of loved the idea of them thinking they're escaping this patriarchal world of abuse just to fall into a different one. And if anything, they're even less in control with nowhere to stay - no one to trust." YES. This.

    I really liked the idea of these "girls" living together and going to school but instead of regular college kids they're robots! Fun concept. And yeah I think of them as college kids even though I guess technically they're high school? It felt more like college to me...?

    And same. I'd hate for people to feel overwhelmed and dismiss it as too much "man hate" when really she has great points, but it's just so much.

    Yeah it worked best for me with them as lonely strangers in a messed up world- the whole "plot" thing behind the scenes took me out of the story. I agree I want the creepier angle the plot stuff to change the world felt like it was veering into boring YA territory?

    I have not read the Program! I am curious to read more by her though, given how much I like these.

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    1. Ooh! You bring up an interesting point. They DO feel more like college kids. I wonder if that's some of my problem. The problems and characters feel more adult but then the writing and backdrop feels more HS.

      The Program brings up so many of these issues in a really creepy way. I didn't love the companion novels as much as The Program but still a solid series that I think you'll like.

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  11. This sounds like a fascinating read! Hugs, RO

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    1. It's interesting and brings up a lot of topics but fell short for me.

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  12. Oy so I DO feel you with the setting and such just falling short of the first book. It didn't have the same sense of urgency really, or the same level of twistiness. But I DID really like what the author tried to do in terms of empowering women and such. So while I did like it for the most part, I also agree that it was very much a sequel.

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    1. Yeah. I don't mean to discount what the girls went through in HS - and I think it's an interesting thing that they just encounter MORE misogyny and lack of freedom - but compared to what they came from, and what some of the girls have in mind, it wasn't as gripping.

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  13. Aw, I am sorry that you weren't able to really enjoy this sequel much anymore :( I always feel like it is a bummer when women and girls aren't portrayed well in books because it has been like that for too long throughout history :/ Hopefully it was just middle book syndrome and if you are still interested in the finale it will turn out well!

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    1. I don't think it was a bad portrayal in the typical way. This is a series very much centered around and supportive of women but some of the girls are going down the path of ther men they hate (which seems intentional) and is a great thing to explore but.. she doesn't and it enjoyed me.

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