Thursday, 25 October 2018

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Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls by Claire LegrandSawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (Bought) - 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.
From Goodreads.

Trigger Warning: This book features suicidal ideation, child abuse, and asexual discrimination.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand is an incredible, unbelievably creepy story that will have you gripped from the first page, absolutely desperate to know what's going to happen next, and I absolutely loved it!

Marion has just moved to Sawkill Rock with her mother and sister, after the death of her father. It's not where she wants to be, but both her mother and her sister depend on her, the only person seeming to keep them afloat. Zoey has been desperately searching for answers ever since her best friend Thora disappeared without a trace a few months ago. The police sent out search parties that the islanders joined in with, but they could not find a single trace. Thora isn't the first to disappear from Sawkill Rock, she's just the latest in a long line of vanishing girls over decades, disappearances the island seems to accept without question. When Marion's sister Charlotte becomes the next girl to disappear, after being befriended by Val - the beautiful queen bee of the island, who throws the best parties and who everyone adores - who also stole Thora from Zoey three months before her disappearance, Zoey's suspicions about Val grow. But the secrets Val keeps and the lies she tells are beyond anything Zoey or Marion can imagine, trapped in a fate she can't escape. All the while, the legend of the monster that prowls through the woods of Sawkill Rock seems more likely than anything the more Marion and Zoey dig, but how can it be true? Evil haunts Sawkill Rock, and the seconds tick, bringing the disappearance of the next girl closer.

This book is just so unbelievably good! Sawkill Girls captivated me from the first page, with Legrand's beautiful writing, the atmosphere that permeates the story, and a plot that is as terrifying as it is mysterious and intriguing. Although the stories are nowhere near the same, I couldn't help but thinking of Stranger Things as I read Sawkill Girls; they both had chills running up my spine, a desperation to turn away, but absolutely needing to know what was going to happen, and freaking me out beyond belief. If you love Stranger Things, you'll love Sawkill Girls. I don't want to talk too much about the plot, because I don't want to spoil things, and there are certain aspects of the story we're made aware of from the very beginning that you wouldn't guess at from the description. But this story is epic! It's just bloody incredible, and freaked me right out. And I loved it!

I loved each of the girls in this story, who are all narrators. Marion is struggling; she's overwhelmed with her grief over losing her dad, but is unable to find any comfort or support, as both her mum and her sister Charlotte lean heavily upon her. She is their rock, their mountain, but no-one is hers. When Charlotte becomes the latest girl to disappear, it's almost more than she can stand. She and her sister were especially close, and the grief on top of grief is overwhelming, and the lack of answers and the her mother being so close falling apart at the seams are the only things that are keeping her going. She needs to be strong for her mum, and she needs to know what happened to her sister. She can fall apart later, first she needs to know what happened now. Marion is strong in that she has to be, she doesn't have any other choice, but despite how she struggles, there is something comforting, as a reader, to see just how steady she is for those who need her. She's just wonderful. But at the same time, she's vulnerable and fragile, and it was actually wonderful to see these two sides to her. Because of stereotypes, we often see the Strong Woman, emotionally, now, who shows very little signs of "weakness", or we see women who are emotional and sensitive, and embrace this because it's not weakness and there's strength in feeling and expressing their emotions. We don't often, I think, see a character who embodies both, but we do in Marion, and I loved her.

Zoey is wonderful in that she absolutely does not give up on her friend. She knows in her heart that Thora is dead, but she will not settle for not having any answers. She does feel guilty for how badly she thought of Thora when she went off with Val and practically dropped her, but that's not why she wants answers; she cannot just accept that she's gone and that's it. She needs the closure, but also feel she owes is to Thora to find out what happened to her. And no matter what lines she has to cross, she will get her answers. She makes connections that no-one else seems to see, or thinks are ridiculous, but demands to be listened and heard. She will not be ignored or swept aside. She's fiery and determined, and for that I love her.

Val is a contradiction in terms, and I love her for it. She is seen as being privileged, that she thinks herself superior. She is beautiful and perfect, she is adored. She can have her pick of the boys, and her choice of friends. And yet... she has her secrets. She is living a life she doesn't want, that she didn't choose. She has been groomed her whole life for something she hates, a fate she abhors, but from which she cannot escape. She has very few choices, and the wrong choice leads to consequences. She is complex, she is lonely, and she is alone. Her life isn't what people think, she isn't what people think, and as terrible as some of her actions are, I couldn't help but feel for her. I liked her, I did, even though she is absolutely as far from perfect. I do think she is someone who will divide opinion, but I really, really felt for her.

I loved how diverse this book was, too. Zoey is Black, firstly, but Sawkill Girls is also very, very queer. One of the girls is asexual, word used on page, and one of the girls is either bisexual or pansexual, and the other is, I believe, is a lesbian - though none of the words bisexual, pansexual or lesbian are used, it's what I am assuming from what we are told about the characters attractions. I'm not saying who is what because the book features an f/f romance, and it's complicated, so I think it's better to see it evolve and happen on the page rather than know it's coming beforehand. But there is an on-page f/f sex scene, which was actually really wonderful.

There's the potential for a sequel; there are a couple of things here and there that leave the door open for more stories, though I don't know if there will actually be one. If Sawkill Girls is a stand-alone, then I'm quite happy with how it concluded, but I would have preferred it to be just a little longer. There are some elements, pertaining to the history of things, that I would like to know more about. The when and the how first of all. Then more on the history pertaining to The Collector specifically. But also the history surrounding how we do find things out. It's difficult to put into words what I want to know more about without spoiling the story. As I said, there is the potential for more books, so there's the possibility that what I have questions about will have answers in any sequels books. But there's no guarantee that there will be sequels, and if not, not knowing those answers is a little niggle, but it's nothing major, really.

I absolutely loved Sawkill Girls; it was terrifying and gripping, and just amazing! I do so hope there is a sequel, but what is certain is that I'll definitely be reading more of Legrand's novels, because I don't want to miss out on what will undoubtedly be just as awesome!

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Published: 2nd October 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Claire Legrand's Website

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