“Something was trying to wake up.
What a strange thought to have.”
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. 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.
TW: death (family, animal), implied self-harm, suicidal ideation, gore, abuse, implied sexual content, one explicit sex scene
I picked up this book afraid, because when I read Furyborn, I didn’t love it, and the hype had let me down. It seemed all too likely that it might happen again here, and that instilled all kinds of caution in me. Was it going to be worth it? Was it going to let me down again?
It did not let me down. Not even a little bit. And honestly? I’m still in shock.
Sawkill Girls was phenomenal, worth every ounce of the hype and then some. From quite literally the first three pages, I was completely enamored by the style. It’s almost lyrical sometimes without straying too close to over-flowery and irritating, and it’s ridiculously quotable. Seriously, if you check the Goodreads quote page for the book, it’s loaded with absolute gems, and I’m still thinking about it.
But the beautiful prose was just icing on top, because the characters were the heart and soul of the book, intricately developed and so very real.
Right away, I loved Marion. She’s the steady sort, the rock for her mother and sister since her father died in a car accident. She’s a worrier, too, something that I understand so, so deeply; I saw myself in her in some ways, and almost immediately, I wanted nothing but the best for her (even though I knew that wasn’t likely to happen, this being gothic horror in nature and whatnot). On top of that, on top of somehow being gentle and resolute and determined, she’s also fat and bisexual, representation I was not expecting but was absolutely delighted to see.
Then there’s Val, who I didn’t like at first. Admittedly, she’s my least favorite of the POVs, if only because I found it harder to relate to and sympathize with her than Marion or Zoey. That said, holy hell is she complex. So much emphasis is placed on moments of agency or lack thereof in her POV, and even though she initially comes off as nothing but the hot cruel blonde, the layers that peel away as the story takes full shape are amazing. She’s also queer, which made me ridiculously happy. I’m always here for more queer characters, especially queer girls.
But then there’s Zoey, and I’ve saved the best for last, because I adore her. On the page, explicitly so, Zoey is biracial (her mother is white, her father black), and she’s asexual. Best of all, she’s not the cool, logical asexual type I wrote about in my asexual awareness post about a month ago. Zoey is impulsive and furious and compassionate, and she is everything I have been dying to see in ace characters. For the first time, I actually feel well and truly represented instead of frustrated by the almost robotic depictions of asexuality I’ve encountered elsewhere. Zoey felt real to me, and it hit hard. Especially stunning, though, was that she gets to navigate relationships. She faces the complexity of being ace but not aro, and there’s an entire facet of her back story devoted to the frustration and emotional turmoil of not wanting sex, not feeling sexual attraction, wondering if there’s something wrong or broken, not wanting to disappoint a partner as a result. It was almost hard for me to read, but in the best way: I saw so much of myself there, and it was truly incredible.
Putting all three girls together, though, was truly the triumph of the book. Sawkill Girls is about furious girls who want not just to live, but to thrive, and not only that, but to have love in their lives. They want, they hunger, and their anger is so refreshing. It leaps off the page at you, all the frustration and fear that they feel, and you want nothing more for them than to get what they want. On top of that, the antagonists of the book are so absolutely awful that you feel all the more for the trio. Everyone is furious in this book, even the reader (maybe especially the reader), and the emotional payoff is absolutely worth it.
I can’t think of much to fault this book for. I try to be upfront when there are things in a book I don’t enjoy, but I was so engrossed in Sawkill Girls, so sad to read the final page and let it go knowing that this is not the type of book that lends itself well to sequels, the type that is always stronger as a standalone, that I don’t know if I can find anything I didn’t enjoy. I read all 447 pages in a single sitting, and actually had to sit in silence for a while when I was done in order to process everything.
Sawkill Girls was worth every minute of the time spent on it and more. The hype was right this time, so very right.
Have you read Sawkill Girls yet? If not, are you planning to? And what’s your favorite gothic book or gothic trope?