Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

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Publication: July 31st 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages:  384 pages
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤.5

“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,” (Legrand 261).

Sawkill Girls is a book I didn’t know existed and heard no hype for until it oh so casually popped up on my bookstagram feed and intrigued me. A feminist story with diverse characters who hunt monsters and there are moths?! It sounded exactly like my kind of book, and it didn’t disappoint, though I do have some criticisms about it.

On the island of Sawkill girls have gone missing for many years, but the residents never linger on the tragedy for long. Sawkill Girls follows three different girls on the island of Sawkill: Marion who has recently lost her father and has moved to Sawkill with her mother and sister as she tries to keep them stable, Zoey who is a misfit and eager to find out what happened to her missing friend Thora, and Val who is rich, beautiful, and dangerous and she knows it. But a monster lurks and watches them from the shadows and like it or not they’ll have to come together to defeat it.

Legrand does an amazing job creating the atmosphere for this book. Sawkill is an unsettled place with unsettled people, and watching the strange normality that people live their lives is fascinating. Each of the three main characters are wholly unique with individual voices and I loved falling deeper into their lives and the dark lore of Sawkill.

The novel is also incredibly diverse with characters of different races and sexual orientations, and Legrand offers a great discussion on asexuality and sexual identity and attraction which many YA novels (and many books in general) seem to shy away from. It was nice to see Legrand take up the challenge and having these diverse characters without a huge point of their stories being taken up by what makes them diverse. They have different backgrounds and sexualities, but it isn’t important to the plot of the story, it’s just a part of their identity.

I loved the descriptions Legrand uses in the novel, both poetic and vague, asking the reader to piece together certain aspects. One of my favourite ways Legrand tells her story is by avoiding describing the killing of the girls but focusing on how they screamed, on the gore underneath Val’s fingernails, the girl parts she had to clean up. It was so dark and so casual, just how I like my horror.

But it did seem like some of the characters were written very differently at the beginning of the book to the end. While this could be put down to character development, so much happened so quickly in the novel that it just didn’t feel realistic. With the pacing and the short time frame of the story, a lot of the character’s later actions don’t make sense as a whole. While I can understand Marion being curious and maybe wanting a relationship with Val so that she can feel something, the quickness of it was unrealistic as was the fact that Marion begins this relationship with the knowledge that Val may be responsible for her sister’s death but goes along with it anyways (but maybe Marion is just a more forgiving person than I’ll ever be). Val seemed absolutely cold-hearted and villainous when she’s first introduced only to quickly grow vulnerable once her attraction to Marion begins. Zoey was the only one who seemed to consistently stay in character with her wit and hardness which was both funny and enjoyable to read while Val and Marion flailed through quick and unrealistic developments.

The addition of the Hand of Light cult definitely added a new layer and almost Buffy-esque quality to the novel but quickly derailed themselves. They were almost comically villainous, Briggs the unofficial leader (or at least the one who does all the talking) of this chapter sounded like a comic book character and completely unrealistic, though I suppose many religious zealots do.

Casually vicious and creepy, Sawkill Girls is an excellent horror novel that stands out for its horror, diverseness, and story as a whole. A perfect read for a foggy and stormy night, hopefully far away from monsters.

Favourite Quotes:

“I’ll tell you what I’ve lost, she wanted to say, and then open up hr chest so they could see the hollow pit where her heart used to live. It was stuck in a state of collapse, this pit – a tiny, organ-shaped singularity, sucking down the bleeding ravaged bits of who she used to be,” (Legrand 5).

“Over the years, Zoey had remade herself from the kind of girl who cried when she saw roadkill to the kind of girl who shoved down her tears so deeply it sometimes felt she’d forgotten how to cry at all. Things were easier that way,” (Legrand 22).

“Without me, where would your sadness go?” (Legrand 46).

“Mountains couldn’t talk, could they? No, voices were for birds and wolves and the wild, wild wind. Mountains watched, taciturn and solemn and bearing the weight of the ancients, while the world careened and howled on by,” (Legrand 49).

“To exist merely as herself, and not as an anchor for her mother and sister – what would that be like?” (Legrand 76).

“Maybe it was the writer in her, who believed even the tallest tales were rooted in truth,” (Legrand 81).

“You don’t have to be strong. You can be what you need to be,” (Legrand 200).

“She wanted, simply, to exist for a while in stillness,” (Legrand 262).

“A wild, dangerous creature, somehow sewn up info the form of a girl,” (Legrand 400).

“Stardust cares not for the agony of demons,” (Legrand 443).

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