Hello Humans! I did intend for the whole of October to be dedicated to scary, creepy, or generally just Halloween-themed books, but then there were a lot of new releases that didn’t exactly fit the mould and I had to tweak my plans. However, today’s book Sawkill Girl certainly hits the mark when it comes to creep factor. I am sure a lot of you will have seen something about this book in the bookish internet at some point, and I’m delighted to have been given the chance to share my thoughts with you.
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.
This book is written from the perspective of three girls living on Sawkill island – not surprising given the title. I did think that all three perspectives were interesting, the girls themselves were diverse (not only meaning that they were different from each other, but they were also representative of quite a few intersectional identities – more on that later). I thought that they had distinct voices, fairly clear motivations – most of the time – and were quite compelling. I don’t think I could pick a favourite, which is unusual for me, because all of them had their moments where I really liked them and also moments where I was a bit iffier.
I actually think the strongest moments in this story was when it stopped feeling like a ghost/horror story and instead felt more like an episode of some girl power TV show with a horror element (I don’t know Buffy well enough to say ‘Buffy’ but something similar). There are some truly inspirational ‘forget the men, let’s do this’ moments in the story that work really well, and you can feel the passion behind the prose in those moments.
The prose itself is gorgeous. Before I read this I read the first three chapters in a sampler and it was the rich descriptive language that grabbed my attention. That continues throughout and it uses language very evocatively. This did mean that I physically squirmed in some passages, but I do have a phobia of swarms of insects so that’s a personal preference thing. If you’re like me and you’d like to know which passages to avoid ping me a message and I can find the page numbers. But it is beautiful writing.
Where this book lost me a little was a combination of the plot and the tone. As I’ve alluded to above, there are some moments that feel more cheesy girl-power fantasy, almost like an episode of supernatural or something? But then there are other parts of the book that feel very horror-driven, with some quite uncomfortable moments that aren’t fun to read at all. Of course, you know that going in, I don’t think anyone would read the blurb on this and think they are getting a light-hearted romp, but the split identity of this book makes it somehow less impactful. You can’t lean in and enjoy the lighter moments because you’re either still reeling from whatever horror has just passed or you’re waiting for the next one. You can’t really revel in the horror (if that’s your thing) because it’ll get cheesy at some point and you just end up giggling (at least I did).
This book does have a quite diverse cast of characters, especially for a book set in such an insular community. There are queer characters, though it’s a bit insta-love-esque if you ask me. There is also an asexual character, though I cannot speak to how well she represented that community and I urge you to look for own voices reviews (as I will also). I liked that these identities were represented as it made this feel a much more modern story, we’ve had ghost stories and stories of missing girls before, and these identities weren’t necessarily represented, so it’s good to have them there.
Overall, I’m not sure what to make of this book. I did enjoy reading it, I thought it was compelling, and it kept me hooked from page one right the way through to the end. But I think that, because I couldn’t quite get a handle on the tone, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it as much as I might have wanted to. Of course horror/spooky isn’t my preferred genre so others may enjoy this far more than I did. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Will you be reading Sawkill Girls? Let me know in the comments below!