by Claire Legrand
“Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.”
Published Oct. 2, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA fantasy/horror
Date finished: Dec. 4, 2018
Content warnings: violence, loss of family members, animal death, blood and gore, parental abuse, mentions of sexual abuse, bugs (spiders, moths), acephobic comments
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.
My thoughts (spoiler free)
I’d like Claire Legrand to refund me for the hours of sleep I lost because of this book, please.
I’m a huge scaredy cat, so anything even remotely frightening is the scariest thing in the world to me. Why did I read this horror book, you ask? Because it sounded good. Don’t tell me what to do.
This book has its fair share of jump scares and genuinely terrifying moments, but the real creepy part was the atmosphere of foreboding throughout the whole thing, as if danger is always just around the corner. The whole book has this sense of unreality and surrealism that gave the sense that anything could happen. The setting of Sawkill Rock, with its dark forests and rocky shores, added to the creepy factor. I imagine that tension difficult to maintain throughout a whole 400+ page novel, but Claire Legrand managed it so well.
So what’s this book about? Three girls form the heart of the story: Marian, Zoey, and Val.
Marian is the newcomer to the island of Sawkill Rock, trying to keep her grieving family together after the loss of her father.
Zoey (my favorite) is basically the Mulder of Sawkill: trying to figure out what happened to all the girls who have disappeared, but outcasting herself in the process.
Val is the center of everyone’s attention, the popular girl, and the only one who might know what’s really going on with this island. Also, that character development, though.
As much as this is a horror story about people mysteriously disappearing on an isolated island, it is even more a story about girls: bonds and relationships betweens girls, friendships, sisterhood, girls dreaming and grieving and wanting and fighting and angering. In this story, girls are allowed to make mistakes, which they grow from due to the support of other girls. The villain may be a mysterious evil lurking on the island, but it’s also all the people who tell the girls who they can and can’t be, fencing them in to prevent them from realizing how truly powerful they are.
Oh, another character who is worth mentioning: Grayson, the only good man out there, ray of sunshine, actual angel, beautiful cinnamon roll.
The writing was gorgeous and atmospheric. There were times when I found myself getting lost in the language; Claire Legrand has a way of describing a scene that’s so visual and lovely. Even during relatively slow moments during the story, I was kept invested by the strength of the writing.
My only complaint with the story is kind of weird… There are some things that I wish had stayed more ambiguous and other things that I wish were explained more clearly. I don’t want to be any more specific for fear of spoilers, but there were certain points when we got an explanation of what was happening that I would have been fine with it remaining unexplained. And there were other points that I was a bit lost because I felt like it wasn’t explained enough. I don’t know if this was just a personal preference thing so I’m interested in knowing whether others who read it felt the same way!
Overall, though, this was a book about girls who are strong and powerful in the face of unthinkable darkness because of their bonds to each other. It was creepy, at times straight up horrifying, and kept me glued to every word (except the moments when I was screaming and had to throw the book across my bed). The characters were beautifully fleshed out and went through so much development in the course of the book. If you’re looking for something somewhat horrifying but also strangely empowering, I highly recommend picking this up!
“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.”