Get to know author Suzanne Young’s latest book, Girls With Sharp Sticks
New York Times best-selling author Suzanne Young is back with a new series for us to devour. The first book, ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’, comes out this month and introduces us to Mena and her friends as they attend Innovations Academy — a seemingly harmless boarding school full of beautiful, obedient girls. But in this story of female empowerment, Mena soon learns that everything isn’t as it seems at the Academy, and she and her classmates must fight back against the system.
We got the opportunity to ask Suzanne all about Mena, The Academy, and the inspirations behind ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks.’
For anyone who hasn’t picked up a copy yet, can you give us 5 words that best describe ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’?
Female friendships, powerful, romantic, unsettling.
‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ tackles a lot of modern day ethics issues through fiction. Can you explain where that inspiration came from and what form it takes in the book?
The idea for ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ began with a boarding school and a secret. But as news stories continued to break about abusive men and the systems that protect them, I realized that the fictional Innovations Academy had more than a secret. It was part of a system that needed to be destroyed.
I was inspired by the girls of the USA Olympic gymnastics team as they faced down their abuser in court, fought back against an entire system that failed them. Together, those girls became a force. I wanted to show in my book that the girls of Innovations Academy could band together and take on anything. Together, they’ll be unstoppable.
You’re an English teacher in addition to being an author. What’s the one book you recommend all your students read and why?
One book I fought to get on the curriculum was ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. Not only because it’s a great book with important themes, but because at the time, the curriculum I inherited from the previous teacher didn’t have a single female author on the list. Not to mention Mary Shelley’s life is fascinating to learn about on its own. But the story of Victor Frankenstein and the moral implications of the decisions he makes, the question of who’s the real monster, and the story framing sets us up for great discussions and amazing projects. It offered a little something for everyone. I still have a stuffed monster a student made from scraps in the sewing lab.
Will fans of your previous books, especially The Program series, find that ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ is comfortingly similar or excitingly different to what they’ve read from you?
I think fans of The Program series will be happy because ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ deals with important societal issues just like ‘The Program’ did. But this time, there is more of a call to action. The Program series didn’t necessarily have a “bad guy.” This book has several. And these are villains that can be found in our society, villains that need to be stripped of power.
We saw on Facebook that the sequel to ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ will be called ‘Girls With Razor Hearts’. Can you tell us anything about what we can expect from the second book?
‘Girls With Razor Hearts’ is pretty explosive and exciting, terrifying, sad, and cathartic. I think fans of the first book will be horrified and delighted. Although I can’t say much without giving away the ending of ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’, we’ll get to see that the controlling behavior of men in power isn’t limited to a prestigious academy. This series isn’t about changing one school. It’s about changing society.
If ‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ magically became a movie tomorrow, who would be your dream actress to play main character Mena?
I really like Amber Midthunder from ‘Legion as Philomena’ — she has that perfect combination of vulnerability and toughness that would work well.
A lot of our readers dream of being YA authors themselves one day. What’s the best piece of writing advice you can give them?
Write all the time. Write on your phone, write on scraps of paper, write everything. Many of my books are the combination of multiple stories that I started but didn’t finish. There is no wasted writing, just stories that haven’t found the perfect blend yet.
‘Girls With Sharp Sticks’ is available on March 19, 2019.