Monday, November 19, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

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Title: Sawkill Girls
Author: Claire Legrand
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, LGBTQIA+
Pages: 450
Pub Date: October 02, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins
Book Source: publisher via edelweiss
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Synopsis: 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.
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*** POSSIBLE SPOILERS ***

Sawkill Girls was such an on-the-fence read for me. I loved it, but it also made me angry (I'll explain). It was atmospheric, creepy, and diverse, but it also dragged at a slow pace.

There are three MCs—all female—in this story, with alternating POV chapters. 
Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Our first MC is Zoey. Zoey is asexual, bi-romantic, and black. Can we say HELL YES for some diversity right off the bat? Zoey is an interesting character as she is sort if unlikable, or perhaps meant to be. But, at the same time, she is stubbornly lovable! She is the town “pariah”—being the butt of some jabs and whatnot. This is due to her dad being one of the police who has failed to figure out what happened to the girls who've been disappearing for years and years. Zoey is grieving the more recent loss of her best friend Thora. So, from page one, Zoey is in a dark mood.

Next up, we have Marion. Marion is bisexual and also fat—yes, FAT, deal with it—which I ADORE. Not everyone has a perfect body, myself included. It is refreshing to have an MC to represent us thick girls. Marion is the new girl in Sawkill Rock. She and her family moved to get away from their own problems, which are soon exacerbated by Marion's sister going missing. Marion is described as plain and dependable, but I think she's kind and tough.

Last, but not least, there is Val. She's beautiful, popular, queer, and has a dark secret. Val's story is not a “normal” one. It is complicated and sad. I will leave it vague, but I will say this: it will surprise and confuse you at the same time. Val is being manipulated in a way that you'll never see coming.
Don’t lose yourself to him, my darling one... Not all of you. Keep a morsel for yourself.
There is a fourth POV, but it is that of the island itself. It is strange and haunting, and pretty vague. It added a great element of mystery to the book.

Let's talk about the bad:

• This book is marketed as a feminist dream. Girls loving girls, girls helping girls. Girls girls girls. Which, as a feminist and lesbian, I LOVE. It had these factors, girl power and such, BUT it also went pretty heavy on the man-hating. I will admit that I can understand the perspective in a sense, but it could also be offensive, yeah? Some quotes:

How much do you want to bet the Hand of Light formed because some old rich men figured out these monsters could develop a taste for manflesh and wanted to protect their own asses?

I feel sort of weird doing this. Like I'm some sort of asshole professor mansplaining the situation to you.

...some man sitting in the clouds, maneuvering the pieces of the world to suit his whims because he, of course, knows best. 
[on "god"]

Screw that book, it was written by men. [Um... what? Have you met Stephen King? Neil Gaiman? Tolkien? Shakespeare? George R.R. Martin? Steinbeck? Poe? I could go on forever here. This is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.]

Sigh. The book just portrayed that like 98% of men are evil and gross. Let's be honest here: women can be just as fucked up as men.

• The pace. It was just sort of off to me. It was great in the beginning, then slowed down a bit to make room for the romance, which was fine, but it sped up for a minute and then the ending was sort of a flop. It just didn't feel very cohesive.

The good:

• A+ for diversity in race, sexuality, body type, and personality. There was a fantastic array of characters of all types.

• The f/f romance was very well done, in my opinion. I feel as if I am in the minority on this one, but I enjoyed it! I felt that it was very romantic and beautiful. The sex scenes were done just right for a YA audience, but still very steamy and intense. I don't often see an ACTUAL f/f sex scene in YA... not even one that I can think of, honestly. Bravo! I will also note that this romance gave us a different view on Val and painted her in a softer light; made it easier to like her and feel for her even though she wasn't portrayed in a necessarily positive light.

• The plot is unlike anything I've read before. I found it very unique and extremely atmospheric. It was dark, creepy, and mysterious. While it did lag a bit, I was still on the edge of my seat. I literally had chills near the ending.

All in all, this is a bold story. It has flaws, yes, but it is still an empowering read. I enjoyed the characters very much and found them to be quite multidimensional. The plot was so unique and dark. The story is sad, beautiful, and special. I loved the diversity and representation of the LGBTQIA+ community. I recommend this one if you enjoy feminism (beware of the borderline man-hating though), spooky reads, and queer girls. :)
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