Published by Katherine Tegen Books on October 2, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult
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Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
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.
Content warnings: grief, loss of a loved one, murder, violence, animal death, gore, talk of blood, abuse, parental abuse, talk of miscarrying, unwanted sexual contact, acephobic language (challenged), scene with a girl purposely cutting open her palm, use of the word “fat” negatively (thank you to Melanie @ Mel to the Any, whose review helped me fill in some cw’s I originally missed!)
Okay, after reading Sawkill Girls, I can definitely see this becoming one of the biggest YA releases of this fall. It’s gonna be a great spooky October read for lots of readers, and with good reason. Though it wasn’t a perfect read for me, I immensely enjoyed this chilling, atmospheric, queer, feminist little paranormal book.
In Sawkill Girls, we follow three young women who live on a remote island called Sawkill Island. However, Sawkill has never been safe for young women– throughout the years, girls have periodically gone missing. On the island, there’s a local legend about a monster called The Collector, who hunts and eats teenage girls in order to strengthen himself. Spoiler alert: these two things are related. All three of the POV characters are slated to play a role in the destruction of this monster, making their lives irrevocably intertwined.
I had a soft spot for all three of our main characters. First, we have Zoey. She’s asexual, mixed race, and the daughter of Sawkill’s police chief. She’s always felt like a bit of an outcast on the island, because she has no desire to fit in with the wealthy, WASP-y popular crowd. Then, there’s Marion, the plus-sized, queer newcomer to the island. Her family moves to Sawkill in an attempt to heal from the loss of her father, but unfortunately, they’re plunged into something even more horrifying. Rounding out our POV characters, we have Val, the queen bee of Sawkill Island. Her family has lived on the island for generations and has always been at the center of the social scene, but they are hiding a dark secret. As different as these girls’ backgrounds are, they’re forced to come together and fight for something bigger than them. (We also get an EXCELLENT “sidekick” character in the form of Zoey’s ex-boyfriend, Grayson, whom I adored.)
I briefly touched on this, but the representation in Sawkill Girls was fantastic. IT’S SO QUEER AND I WAS SO HERE FOR IT. All three of the main characters are attracted to women in some way, although specific labels aren’t discussed. Plus, this book had an f/f romance that made my heart sing. Even though it felt a liiiiittle instalove-y, I shipped it so hard. And Zoey identifies on-page as asexual, and all of the acephobic comments in the narrative are heavily challenged, and the characters who make them own up to their mistake and apologize. Many of the residents of Sawkill Island we meet in this book are people of color, which was a refreshing change from so many books with similar settings.
This story was dark and haunting, and so, so atmospheric. The setting was perfectly described, and I completely believed that magical/paranormal happenings would be the norm on Sawkill Island. Legrand’s prose is lush and lovely and endlessly quotable. I expected Sawkill Girls to be more of a fabulist novel, when it reality I’d classify it solidly in the paranormal category. This book is quietly unsettling, and it incorporates quite a few elements many readers may find disturbing, so make sure you take a look at the content warnings I’ve listed above before reading. All of the creepy factors really served to build tension in the narrative. It also reflects heavily on grief and loss. And I’ve already mentioned that this book is queer as hell, but it also takes on some wonderful feminist themes and executes them beautifully. If you’re looking for paranormal YA where girls stand up for themselves and for each other, Sawkill Girls is a book for you.
One of the few issues I took with Sawkill Girls was the pacing, which to me felt a bit uneven. The beginning of the novel immediately hooked me in, but after the first third or so, the plot became a bit repetitive. The middle was a struggle for me to get through; I found myself frustrated that we were learning very little new information. By the end of the story, I was skimming because I was just kind of ready for the book to end– though, I will say, I loved the last chapter and found it very fitting for the story. Overall, though, the book felt a bit long for what it was. And while all three of the MC’s have a piece of my heart because of all they went through, I still wish we had learned more about each of them. I finished the story still not entirely sure of who these ladies really were. The plot wasn’t the most original thing in the world, but I do appreciate Claire Legrand taking some of the conventions of similar stories and turning them on their head in a way that smashed the patriarchy. (I’m always here for smashing the patriarchy.)
Overall, I enjoyed this quiet, creepy gem of a book, and I foresee it becoming a favorite for many readers. This is my first Claire Legrand book, and I will absolutely be picking up her backlist titles, because I enjoyed her prose so very much. If you’re looking for something spooky to pick up this October, I’d absolutely recommend giving Sawkill Girls a shot.
Have you read Sawkill Girls? If so, let’s discuss! If not, do you plan to pick it up?