Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Genres/Descriptors: YA; horror; fantasy; LGBTQ+
Publication: October 2018
Check it out on Goodreads
What’s it about?
I tried to write something, but honestly? The Goodreads description is perfect, and I don’t want to give away anything.
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.
This is either going to be very short, or very long, because I have a lot of feelings about this book, but I also don’t want to give anything away that might spoil it for someone. This book is so hard to talk about without spoilers, but I really think going into it without knowing much about the story is for the best.
I started this one night, barely managed to put it down after devouring about 60% of it, then immediately started reading again while eating breakfast. After that, I only put it down for a bathroom break. (The phrase “compulsively readable” comes to mind, and that’s exactly how I would describe this, if phrases like that didn’t make me roll my eyes.)
This book was so perfect for me: creepy and atmospheric setting, queer girls (there’s an asexual character, and the word “asexual” is on the page! plus a f/f relationship), great character dynamics, and it was angry in ways that are so relatable and had me cheering on the characters.
From the first page, I was totally sucked in. Sawkill Rock, and our three protagonists, owned my heart. By the halfway point, I’m pretty sure Claire Legrand owned part of my soul.
The writing is right up my alley, at least for books like this. Some people will probably hate it because it’s the kind of poetic kind of writing you find in some magical realism books, and I know that’s hit or miss for some people. It is for me, too, but in this book? It. Works. The writing added an extra layer to the atmosphere of the story, and I drank it in like I needed it to survive.
Non-spoilery example, from the prologue:
Old money: the taste of it sits on every tongue like a film of stale sugar.
The setting itself was fantastic. I love stories set on small islands, oh my gosh. Give me more! Something about those just instantly make a story feel a bit more magical, like anything could happen, like magic could be lurking just through the trees. I love it. If you enjoyed the setting of The Wicked Deep, you’ll probably like this one. Oh, and also Cabeswater, from The Raven Cycle (not an island, but kind of similar vibe). Sawkill Rock was very much a character in this story, and that’s another thing I want to read more of. I love when the actual land a story takes place on is a character (or like a character, whatever).
The characters. Where do I start? Background characters. So, even the characters who didn’t get a ton of page time were so freaking good. They were all distinct, and I could not only imagine how they looked, but I got a good sense of what they would sound like. That almost never happens for me, except when I’ve seen an adaptation before reading the book. Special shout out specifically for Grayson because he was a precious cinnamon roll and I love him ❤ He’s my newest book child, and I would protect him (possibly) with my life.
Marion, Zoey, and Valerie were amazing. Even when I didn’t really like them, I still liked reading about them.
Marion was strong and grounded, acting as the rock for her mother and sister to lean on. I was rooting for her from the beginning, and my heart just kept hurting for her. She went through so much, took on so much responsibility (I related a lot to that), and I just kept wishing she’d find some peace and happiness.
Zoey was probably the character I related to the most, at least with her personality. I can relate a lot to hiding feelings, laughing at possibly inappropriate times, and being an outcast. There were a few times I just wanted to hug her so bad.
And then there’s Valerie. I don’t know what to say about Val, because most of my opinions are wrapped so tightly with spoilers. I really enjoyed getting to know her, and her family history, and I was definitely satisfied with how things wrapped up. (For her, and for everyone else.)
The plot is tricky to talk about, but I will say that it kept me guessing. Until revelations were being made, I had no clue where this story was going, and I loved that. I usually have at least a couple of guesses, and one is usually right. But not with this book. I didn’t have a guess that turned out to be accurate until pretty late in the story, and it didn’t even involve any of our main characters. (It was about Zoey’s dad, for those of you who’ve read it.) The direction this took, with the reason girls kept disappearing from Sawkill, didn’t really surprise me, but I also wasn’t expecting it before it took that turn. The specifics of it all were different from anything else I’ve read, though, I’m pretty sure.
**If you think trigger/content warnings are spoilers, skip to the next paragraph!** This one definitely needs warnings for: blood and gore; violence; parental abuse; suicidal thoughts; loss of loved ones; drinking/alcohol; talk about miscarriage; animal death (not tortured, more like that scene from the ferry in The Ring); a challenged and apologized for acephobic comment plus mention of other comments that were not apologized for. There’s probably more, so I would suggest looking for others, if you feel you need to.
I want to gush and scream about this book, because that’s what I’m doing on the inside, but I’m trying so hard to keep this spoiler free. I’m wrapping this up now, before I can’t stop myself and do spoil it. So, in short, I absolutely loved this book, and I’m probably going to be screaming about it for a very long time. I highly recommend it.
I gave this one all the stars, 5 out of 5, and I wish I could give more, oh my gosh. This is a new favorite, and I can not wait to read more from Claire Legrand.