Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Summary: 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.

Genre: horror, young adult, fantasy, lgbt
Rating: ★★★★★

Sawkill Girls has been on my TBR list for four(!) years, and I finally forced myself to read it for my LGBT+ reading challenge for the month of June. First, I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of gay horror books out there and will absolutely be reading more of those. Second, I’m low-key mad at myself for waiting so long to read this, because I am obsessed with it.

Sawkill Girls opens and immediately packs all the punches to keep the reader on their toes. We’re introduced to three extremely different girls, all from different backgrounds, as they uncover the secrets of Sawkill Island’s own paranormal legend: The Collector, a creature who hunts and devours young girls. The girls learn that they must work together despite their differences to change the history of the island once and for all.

I was surprised by how quickly we’re introduced to The Collector, and how he makes his debut. It was such a unique twist to the story, and the entire history of his character was fascinating. This wasn’t just some magical, fantastical character. This is a gruesome, disgusting monster with a fully fleshed-out history. He had so many odd characteristics that made him truly terrifying (and, admittedly, captivating). What I loved most about The Collector is that, despite all the background knowledge we discover about him throughout the book, he’s still such an enigma by the end.

Each girl has her own unique voice, and I loved them all for different reasons. While this is an extremely heavy and dark book, there were some seriously funny lines (mostly from Zoey), and there were even a few surprisingly heartwarming moments too.

This story covers so. much. heavy content. It’s a perfect example of how girls are raised in a society that constantly forces them against each other. It’s feminist as hell, showing girls that while we’re typically seen as vulnerable and, in some cases, prey, we’re also the most powerful. It mirrors real life in that if a problem, even if it’s something as horrible as a literal demon eating young girls, doesn’t impact white, cis men, then it isn’t generally seen as an issue. The men in this story acknowledge that there’s a problem, but they don’t do too much to fix it themselves and are willing to let young girls be killed because it doesn’t quite affect them. I loved watching the girls come together not only to tackle the monster but also the men in this story.

I also have to give this book major props for the amount of inclusivity. Zoey is Black, bisexual, and asexual. Her story showcases the aftermath of a breakup with her boyfriend once she discovered her sexuality fully. Marion is plus-size, and while her sexuality is not strictly labeled, she does have romantic and sexual feelings for a girl. Val’s sexuality is never announced either, but there’s mention of relationships with both boys and girls. The girls’ relationships and sexualities are never the pinnacle of the story, but they are heavily mentioned throughout. I appreciated how well done this was. I never felt that these subplots took away from the overarching storyline, and it certainly gave the characters depth that might have otherwise made them one-dimensional.

Sawkill Girls is one of those books that I just want to snuggle up to and protect at all costs. It’s depressing, heartbreaking, incredibly gory and violent, hilarious, and heartwarming. It left me in a daze while I tried to piece together what, exactly, I had just read. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this book, but I’m so happy that I finally did.

“Girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

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