by Claire Legrand
I picked up this book after seeing it all over bookstagram, not knowing exactly what to expect. The blurb made me think that it would be a story of cookie-cutter girls and ancient magic, but then I got sucked into the book and realized all my assumptions were dead wrong.
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.
Each of the girls is incredibly complex: Marion, morning the loss of her father, trying to be a rock for her sister and mother; Zoey, investigating the disappearance of her best friend and dealing with a shaky relationship with her romantic ex but still best friend; and Val, the ever beautiful, popular girl, who we see immediately as being way more than what Zoey thinks of her.
I was a little let down when the author almost instantly revealed what was taking the girls on Sawkill rock, and thought “wow, there goes that mystery,” but I quickly realized that wasn’t the point of the story. No, figuring out what has been taking the girls isn’t the core of the book: it’s how the Sawkill Girls fight back. And that’s where the true strength of this novel comes from, the women. How Marion, Zoey, and Val, bring friendship, sisterhood, womanhood to the fight.
I loved how every time I expected the book to go one way, it instead turned the narrative on its head. This book made me angry, in the best way possible. I made me grit my teeth and shout out in anger. When they introduced the ‘secret society’ I thought the author was stepping into trope territory, but no, she was calling them out. Every trope is brought to the light and beaten repeatedly until it promises never to show its ugly head again. Finishing this book – because I had to read it in one go, it was impossible to put down – I felt the same way as I did stepping out of Wonder Woman. I need more books like these, books that make me feel angry, bolstered and empowered.
The gentler side of the book was also worthy of applause. An unexpected romantic relationship between two of the girls was perfect, hitting every note of what a YA needs. It was sweet, romantic, even sexy, and entirely woven into the plot of the story (so many books just tack f/f relationships on for the extra diversity sticker, without any actual care. This book doesn’t do that.) On top of that, this has to be the BEST representation of Asexuality I have ever read, anywhere. So perfect.
While I went into this book with mild expectations, it has quickly become one of my favorite reads this year. Bold, unputdownable, and making me crave a re-read right away. Now let’s tear down the monsters of this world.