I saw Sawkill Girls awhile ago on Goodreads and was intrigued by the title, cover, and premise of the story. I was a bit deterred by multiple negative reviews that stated the book was long, boring, and full of “men suck, women are better” sentiment but I’m really glad that I stuck with the book until the end to form my own opinion because I ended up enjoying the story more than these reviews suggested I would.
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.
Doesn’t that sound so atmospheric, dark, and wonderful? So full of the promise of mysterious girls, evil monsters, and dark deeds?
Well, the book does have a good amount of that but… I don’t know, it just felt off. For one, the writing felt like it had been forced into some overly-flowy, overly dramatic, and weirdly metaphorical. I know that doesn’t really make much sense, so here’s an example:
“Val’s fretful heart mewed inside the cage of her ribs like a hungry kitten.”
Admittedly, this line isn’t as bad when you’re reading it in the context of the book. I just personally can’t digest so much adjective-heavy, over-the-top writing. Some of the lines like this came off more poetically, but many of them went on, and on, and on- frankly, they just made my eyes droopy and made me want to do something else. Until…
The plot picks up! Thankfully it didn’t take too terribly long for the plot to really kick in and immerse me in the story. Once the vague mentionings of the evil and disappearances start turning into real pieces of the bigger picture, the writing style finally starts to aide the atmosphere of the book and make me interested in the story. Because the story really is well-done and interesting. A long history of girls disappearing on a mysterious island and girls supporting girls to defeat the evil responsible for these disappearances? The plot is dark, convoluted, and continually grows throughout the course of the book.
The characters really helped make the writing bearable and the plot even more interesting. There are definitely things I don’t like about each character, like Zoey’s occasional rudeness, off the top of my head, but I did really grow to like the girls. I didn’t feel a huge connection with any of them, but the way they were written and the unique role each girl played in the story really made me feel for them. Marion has suffered so much and it just keeps getting worse, Val’s life has never really been her own, and Zoey’s pariah status and loss of her best friend all culminate for a trio of sad yet determined and powerful girls.
I really liked that the characters were diverse in a way that wasn’t in-your-face important. Obviously representation matters and is important, but the sexual orientation or race of the characters wasn’t a focal point of the the conflicts or the plot themselves. These are definitely important aspects to anyone’s identity but Legrand writes these aspects the same way as any other aspect; it makes them who they are without being the only important thing about them.
It sounds like I should be giving this book more than 3 stars, but I really can’t get past how boring the first 100-150 pages were, and I did occasionally struggle with the writing style and the pacing as the story continued. I think it aligned well with the tone of the book and the plot but it just isn’t my favorite style to read, especially for 450 pages.
I would still recommend this book but let this be your warning that you’re in for one helluva intense but slow ride. This book doesn’t pull its plethora of emotional punches but it does take awhile to wade through the writing and the slow pacing to reach these points. Sawkill Girls wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be when I hopped on the “add it to your Goodreads tbr” bandwagon, but it was definitely spooky, mysterious, atmospheric, and emotionally powerful.
Have you read Sawkill Girls? What did you think?