Sawkill Girls — Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls

TITLE: Sawkill Girls
AUTHOR: Claire Legrand
RELEASES: October 2nd, 2018; Katherine Tegen Books
GENRE: Fantasy/Horror
AGE RANGE: YA
ACQUIRED: ARC

SYNOPSIS: 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?

Three girls’ 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.

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This is one of those reviews that I had to sit on for a while, because I had so many things I wanted to say about this book, and I just couldn’t quite figure out how to condense them into anything even remotely resembling a sensible length of review. Sawkill Girls is being marketed fairly heavily as horror, but it’s fabulism, too, with a world so gorgeously complex that I can’t ever quite determine if I adore it or am terrified of it.

Come for a while, reads the sign at Sawkill’s ferry dock, and stay forever.

Sawkillgirlssm

At Sawkill Rock, the beauty of the island masks a terrible, dark secret: girls keep going missing, and they’re being lost more frequently every year. Nobody knows where they go, and it’s almost become an accepted status quo among the people of the island. The atmosphere of Sawkill Rock is one of the most immersive settings I’ve ever read; I felt transported so fully into the island’s grasp that I couldn’t help the dread worsening in my gut with every chapter’s passing. Claire Legrand’s writing voice is superb here—having read previous work by her, I genuinely believe that this is where she is meant to be.

My little rock, her mother would say. My grave little mountain.

There are three main characters to this story, with chapters alternating between their perspectives, and my favorite was Marion, who broke my heart over and over again with the loss of her loved ones and, consequentially, her slackening grasp on normality. The representation in this entire book is amazing, and Marion is bisexual and fat, which is a combination I’ll never tire of (because, hello, it’s me!). These facts are dropped so casually that there’s no room for argument—there is no homophobia or body hatred, despite an occasional very brief moment of self-consciousness on Marion’s part. Beyond her appearance and sexuality, Marion is so tough, and pragmatic, and determined to keep up a strong front. I’ve always been the same way, and so, I constantly saw myself mirrored back in her character.

Don’t lose yourself to him, my darling one, Sylvia Mortimer had said. Not all of you. Keep a morsel for yourself.

Though it took me a little longer to warm up to Val Mortimer, I grew fond of her, too. She first appears as this over-simplified “queen bee” persona, but we quickly get to see a side of her that’s so much darker and more haunted than anything you’d imagine (and she’s queer, though we don’t know what her label is). There are quotes in her chapters that have haunted me since the moment I finished this book, and you should be warned that her perspectives frequently depict suicidal ideation and abuse.

Zoey’s laugh was bitter. “Oh, and we poor delicate girls are vulnerable and desperate, is that what you’re saying?”

Finally, there’s Zoey, who is black and asexual (on page—there’s an entire facet to her back story revolving around this aspect of her life), and even more than that, she’s so determined and stubborn and absolutely lovable despite being a fairly “unlikable” character. She’s stern and feisty, and while I’m not sure if she will be everyone’s cup of tea, I was delighted by her antics and unpredictability.

It did not relish tying an innocent to the burden of its ancient might. But the Rock required an infantry.

Okay… I lied, sort of. There’s a fourth character, but it’s hard to explain. The Rock gets the occasional perspective chapter, and while they’re incredibly short and typically entirely vague, they may have been my absolute favorites. These passages read so lyrically and they are so incredibly haunting. I’ve never read a book where a place was given a thinking, feeling sentience to this degree, and it adds the most amazing layer to the story.

“What I’m saying is that girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

On top of the beautiful cast of characters and the haunting atmosphere, this story is so feminist, so empowering and bold and unapologetic. I can’t tell you how strongly this parallels the real world and the ways society casts teen girls aside, nor can I describe how badly I wish I’d had this story as a teen—a story to tell me that it’s okay to be strong, and angry, and queer, and brave, and in need of another mountain to lean on.

You are mighty. You are one, and one, and one.
You are fragile. You can move mountains.
You are breakable. You will never break.
This power is mine. And now it is yours, too.

I know I said I’d keep this to a reasonable length, and I’m trying, but Sawkill Girls is one of those stories that I feel has changed me in a way. 2018 has been the year of brilliant, fiercely feminist reads for me, and this one easily joins the ranks of my favorites. I want everyone and anyone I know to pick up a copy of this gorgeous, spooky little book, because it packs such a punch, and I only hope that it will get even half of the hype it deserves.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 26-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

51 thoughts on “Sawkill Girls — Claire Legrand

  1. I’m so glad you liked this one so much. I’m working with the narrator to get a copy of the audiobook version right now and she warned me it was spooky! I wasn’t too crazy about Furyborn, but I still want to give this author a chance.

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    1. Yes! ON PAGE! There’s even this whole ongoing discussion about how her insecurity regarding her asexuality has affected her, and you get to see her come to accept and love herself as well as her love interest proving that he loves and accepts her and isn’t put off by her being ace (which is something I worried would happen, so I just want to let you know, without spoiling anything, that he handles it really well!). Oh, something I need to add to my review is that there is one acephobic remark, but it is IMMEDIATELY challenged and the character feels horrible for it and apologizes profusely – just giving you a quick heads up on that! ♥

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      1. Thanks for letting me know, Destiny! I absolutely can’t handle Acephobia but knowing it is challenged before reading will make it so much easier to read!

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  2. This sounds amazing! And I’m bowled over by your ability to write both insightful and entertaining reviews. I’m adding it to my TBR as soon as Goodreads cooperates with me. 😂 This book seems like a combination of The Wicked Deep in reverse and The Nowhere Girls. Thank you for this amazing review! ❤

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      1. I think The Wicked Deep will be perfect around Halloween time or on a rainy day because it’s such an atmospheric novel. I didn’t read it at the perfect time/mood and to be objective, I thought the plot was predictable but the characters stole the show for me. I hope you enjoy it when you pick it up! 😊 Oh and The Nowhere Girls is one of my favourite contemporaries of all time. Highly recommended! 😍

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  3. I’ve seen this book around but was unsure if I wanted to pick it up – but your review has convinced me, this needs to be on my TBR! Thanks for the great review Destiny, I can’t wait to pick this one up! Definitely sounds like something I need in my life!

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      1. They weren’t on mine either but.. y’know.. Sequel September.. PLUS I’d feel bad for leaving Catwoman laying around for a year since it’s a gift, haha. Oh, and Batman counts as pre-2018 so there’s that. [And it’s only 250 pages so I should finish it SOON. Although the start is really slow..]

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Batman’s a quick read in a way, and I loved the action-packed scenes. Lu’s definitely a pro at those but.. everything in between felt so slow? And I saw everything coming a mile off so idk. I’m really hoping Maas doesn’t disappoint me with Catwoman like Lu did with Batman. :’)

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      3. Aw, man… that’s frustrating. You know, in hindsight, I think that’s kind of how I felt about Warcross, so maybe it’s just her writing? I LOVED the action scenes (and the heavier romantic scenes) in Warcross, but the world-building bits dragged sometimes (not too often though, thankfully).

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      4. I just skimmed my review on Warcross and didn’t mention anything about that back then. But.. a lot has changed in a year too, haha. Pretty sure I’m a bit more picky and specific when it comes to what kind of books I like now than I did back then. [Not to mention the old fear of writing a lesser review on a big author :’)]

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      5. Ooof, yeah, the fear of down-rating a popular author is something I STILL struggle with sometimes, tbh… especially if it’s an author that’s widely loved within a specific community, like Adam Silvera. I really struggled with HIAYLM in part because he’s soooo popular among queer readers, and it hurt my heart to dislike one of his books so much.

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      6. We both had huge expectations for that particular book. We can’t help it if we don’t like it! I hate how people sometimes forget opinions on books are soooo subjective and personal. And it’s not because you dislike a certain book by an author, you can’t like their other work..

        Why do we have to deal with so much pressure for something that’s supposed to be a fun hobby though. Feels like an eternal battle sometimes. :’)

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