Genre: Horror Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: body horror, death and mutilation
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.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
This is such an atmospheric read, really unsettlingly creepy. Rather than being all out horror and gore (like WILDER GIRLS), this one builds the unease through the dichotomy of our world and the unnatural goings on. The moths, the creepy (and pig-headed) man-cult, the shape-shifting monster. There is blood and gore – particularly how the girls are killed by the monster – but it wasn’t the focus.
The most effective method, to me, was having these little snippets from the perspective of the rock. The island’s sentience was a niggling at the back of my neck, because if there was an evil that scared the earth, it had to be bad. Considering the book starts with a horse getting spooked and sending one of the girl into a fit, that leaves a lingering connection to the island – the bone cry, which makes me shudder when imagining the sound – the book doesn’t hold back on using the natural world to set up the creeping sense of wrongness.
The girls at the heart of the book are so well written, their relationships a complicated tangle of love and lies. It’s apologetically feminist in the way they love and rage, exploring a range of sexualities. Their anger is part of where they draw their abilities from, all flawed but determined to do whatever they can to save other girls.
The only boy who gets a lot of time and development, Grayson, is a sweetie, and the opposite of toxic masculinity. He’s a deliberate contrast to the cult who appear in the second half.
I really like that one of the girls is connected to the monster – forced to serve him. (Not a spoiler – it’s literally stated in her first chapter). It means there is a much better idea of what he is capable of, and what he wants. I think that would have been lacking otherwise, and it makes him that much more threatening as we know.
Read my reviews of other books by Claire Legrand:
The Empirium Trilogy: