Book Review: Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand

I know I promised a reaction thread for this book, but here’s the thing: I can’t deliver on that because I read it too quickly. I was so engrossed in Sawkill Girls, I didn’t want to pause for a single second, not even to write down my own thoughts. I did, however, finish the book about five minutes ago, so fear not, these are some very fresh thoughts.


sawkill girls

Name: Sawkill Girls
Author: Claire Legrand

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: October 2, 2018

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?

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.


Book Cover Comments

I think the cover really captures the tone of this book: it’s moody, the strength of its subject both visible and hidden, and just a little bit creepy. I’m one of those people who is terrified of moths, so I did shiver ~just slightly~ when I first picked it up. I also did not realize it’s a YA horror, and I generally don’t enjoy horror, but I must be on a new roll because I really enjoyed Sawkill Girls as well as The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White. Added bonus, the covers are the perfect amount of spooky and gripping.


The Actual Review

I don’t actually have a single bad thing to say about this book; believe me, that’s shocking, coming from me. I’m critical and skeptical by nature, always willing to gut a book from the inside out. Part of it’s curiosity (what’s more interesting than discovering the beating heart behind a story?), but plenty of it is a simple desire to understand my feelings around a book. Let me tell you about Sawkill Girls.

This book gives you an in-depth view into what it’s like to be a girl today. And, today, being a girl is a powerful and terrifying thing. Claire Legrand acknowledges that. She recognizes it. She celebrates it. But she doesn’t glorify it, doesn’t pretend that it can’t get ugly, that it isn’t a little scary, a little dangerous, and really freaking difficult. The way women walk through this world is a complex thing; so is the way we interact with other women, the way we behave around men, the way we compose our bodies and fix our masks. Because we all wear them; there is strength in that, fear in it, desperate desire to rip the mask off–we all know this. We’ve lived it. Claire Legrand wrote that feeling: the contrast between feeling powerful and powerless, how we often struggle with feeling both and so much more. Watching that feeling, which I’ve thought of as something like a heartbeat, a piece of yourself that you’re born with and eventually forget about even though it’s the only thing keeping you alive, was both harrowing and gripping, in good ways and bad ways. Like being a woman, it was many things, too complex to be neatly arranged and categorized. So, if you’re looking for that feeling, put into words? Read Sawkill Girls.

While browsing Goodreads comments, I noticed a lot of people criticizing the portrayal of men in this book; here’s the thing. I thought it was spot on. There are three main male characters (but I’m only going to refer to two of them here because otherwise it’s spoiler-y): Lucy’s dad (the Sawkill Rock Chief of Police) and Grayson (Lucy’s ex-boyfriend). The other men we see in this book are fanatics, willing to sacrifice girls everywhere (seemingly for the sake of the world, but…not really). Now, people got pissed about that. I can honestly see why: I’m fortunate enough to know plenty of men who are really great guys! Flawed, as the rest of us are, but generally awesome human beings who I feel lucky to know. These are the men who are represented by Grayson and Chief Harlow: they’re far from perfect, they stumble and make mistakes, but in the end, they’re there for you, they support you, they love you, and so on. These men that you know intimately, perhaps with your heart and body, or just one or the either, in whatever order. That’s why they’re the most developed men, the male characters we actually like and cling to and root for, even when they make mistakes. But I want to point out something else: the other men this novel features, those who are willing to bleed women dry of their very souls without a second thought toward those women? Yeah, we know those guys too. We see them in the masses, we see them in the courts when they refuse to condemn rapists and murderers. They are the Brett Kavanaughs of the world. Another thing to point out: at the very, very, very pit of their beings, these men in Sawkill Girls are doing the best to bring some goodness to the world. Great! You know what’s not great? Screwing over girls to achieve that. So, sure, get angry over how men were represented in this book. I’ll be over here, being angry over how women have been negatively represented for centuries, and also being angry over the fact that we’re still being screwed over. Not only by ourselves (and trust me, Claire Legrand shines a light on that part of us as well), but by these masses of men who don’t know us intimately, and are making decisions for us. I saw a Goodreads reviewer calling for equality, particularly complaining about a part in Sawkill Girls where a character says “Screw that book. It was written by men.” Damn right, equality is what we want! Problem? 99.9% of “important” books (*cough* The Bible *cough*) were written by men, and the second a woman (in a fictional situation) brings to light the fact that ~maybe it’s time to think new thoughts~ it’s not men who start to crap on her. It’s other women. *Sad face* The reason why I appreciate this character saying that particular statement is because the book she’s referring to was written by men about the fate of women. And what they should be doing with their lives. Honestly? #ScrewThatBook

Angry feminist rant over.

In addition to prose that crawls off the page and grabs your face and drags you into the book until you feel like you’re breathing ink and tasting paper, Sawkill Girls is exceptionally well-written. The dialogue is lively, and you can totally tell it’s being spoken by teenagers without being overly cheesy with the slang (when slang is used, it’s usually in an ironic situation, or a simple, rare “lol” through text). The characters are dynamic and well-rounded, their jagged souls held up to the light cast by the reader, and we’re given the opportunity to examine every single piece of them, good and bad. They’re caring and selfish, steadfast and malleable, broken and whole, weak and strong. They’re human.

They’re women.

It’s page 406 where I completely lost my shit and started sobbing. I’m going to share some excerpts (picking out certain lines to avoid spoilers), and while you might not get it here, I recommend reading this book so you can appreciate the context. And so I don’t have to cry alone:

You are a small girl.

You are mighty.

You can move mountains.

You are breakable.

You will never break.

You must keep fighting.

You must never stop fighting.

You must light the path for others to find their footing.

Yeah. Lost my mind. Bawling. My roommate looked at me like I was insane. In that moment, I probably was, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. And when you all read this book, you’ll know why. You’ll get it.

This is a book that is important. And I encourage you all to read it.

Other amazing fabulous bonuses:

  • Representation and diversity up the wazoo! Loved it all so much, it made the story flow so much better
  • It’s literally a coming-of-age lesbian story and I will be fully honest: I’ve never read one before. But I loved it.
  • Horses! I love horses y’all. I think they’re amazing.
  • Did I mention the prose? *fans self*

And with that, I bid you adieu. Here’s the Barnes & Noble link to Sawkill Girls. Now go buy it!

~Ava

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